Monday Medical: Healthful tips for the holidays

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Shopping, travel, parties, family visiting, children’s activities, end-of-the-year obligations — the commitments this time of year might seem endless. You might find your usual routines disrupted, and when this happens, it’s easy to let good health habits slide.

Rather than abandoning your exercise, sleep and healthy eating habits for the holiday season, hold on to the thought that exercise can help metabolize those extra calories. Exercise also can help you sleep better and keep your immune system strong. I really like this mantra from a personal trainer: Move your feet before you eat.

Design physical activity and exercise routines into your holidays. Even if it’s just a 10-minute walk during a break at work or a short walk around your neighborhood, do it every day. Recruit a friend or co-worker to do it with you, so you both will be less likely to stop exercising. Once the snow starts falling, enjoy skiing, whether downhill or cross-country. Go snowshoeing or try ice skating.

On especially busy days, exercise first thing in the morning so there’s no excuse to keep you from doing it later in the day. Plan workouts you can do while traveling, and choose a hotel that has a gym or swimming pool. Always pack a pair of walking or hiking shoes because there is sure to be a place to walk, whether it’s a hiking trail or at an indoor shopping mall. Rent, buy or borrow an active video game (Wii Fit, Dance Party, Zumba), and invite others to join in the fun.

After you move your feet, the challenge is, what do you choose to eat? Most traditional holiday foods are high in saturated fat, sugar and calories. However, you don’t have to sabotage your healthy eating habits during this time.

Choose the special holiday foods that you really enjoy and pass on the foods you can get at any time of the year. Have that slice of your favorite pecan pie but watch the portion size. Cut your portions in half so you can enjoy your favorite holiday dish without stuffing yourself.

The Internet is filled with healthy recipes, so try something new. If you are entertaining, your guests most likely will appreciate the calorie savings, too.

Some healthful cooking tips to consider:

■ Focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.

■ Remove the skin from the turkey before slicing and putting it on the table.

■ Season sweet potatoes with orange juice instead of butter and brown sugar.

■ When a recipe calls for sugar, cut the amount by 1/3. It will not affect the taste.

■ For baked goods, sauces and soups, use evaporated skim milk instead of cream.

■ Limit frying and sauteing in too much oil or butter. Use a cooking spray, broth or water to saute meats or vegetables.

■ Roast, bake, broil or steam meats and vegetables.

Also remember to limit temptations by keeping candy dishes and cookie platters out of sight when you are not entertaining. Try substituting fruit and vegetable trays for holiday treats at work. Cut back on drinking alcohol as it often leads to overeating.

Savor the season and what it means to you. For your health, slow down, focus on friends and family and “move your feet before you eat.”

Lisa A. Bankard directs the wellness program at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at lisa.bankard@yvmc.org.

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