Holiday season can be stressful even when everything goes according to plan. Traveling, eating out, parties, visitors, and baking at home make it very challenging to stay healthy during the holiday season.
Here are some health strategies for the holiday season that one can commit to and succeed most of the time if not all the time.
- Sleep well: Most Americans are sleep deprived. Not getting adequate sleep is associated with increased hunger, high blood glucose, poor concentration, impaired problem solving and eventually more illness. Make sure to sleep at least 7 hours a night to protect yourself from fatigue and illness.
Goal: Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
- Stay Active: Exercise usually takes the back burner during the holidays and it is important to make a conscious effort to invite family and friends to go on a stroll after a meal instead of lazing on the couch. After meals, exercise tends to lower post meal blood glucose and increases energy expenditure by activating muscles. Some ideas include playing Frisbee, dancing to music, or signing up for a local walk event.
Goal: Be active for at least 30 minutes a day (5 days a week).
- Avoid sweet indulgences: Sweets and Holidays go hand in hand. Try and eat less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day. This may not sound realistic during the holidays but aim for about 80% and count it as a success. Excess sugar consumption can increase your blood glucose especially if you have diabetes. Reading labels is beneficial and it is helpful to remember that 1 teaspoon equals about 4 grams of sugar.
Goal: Limit sugar intake to 6 teaspoons a day.
- Add Fiber to your diet: Fiber containing foods have help to relieve constipation, maintain healthy weight, and may slow down the intestinal absorption of glucose. Enjoy seasonal fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains that are rich in fiber and may help with reducing inflammation. Examples include salads, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, fresh fruits and nuts.
Goal: Eat at least 25 grams of fiber a day
- Stick to H20: Water is the best way to keep you hydrated and also keeps appetite in check. Add a slice of lime or cucumber or a sprig of herb or a jigger of fruit juice to you water. One can also use sparkling waters without the artificial sweeteners to quench your thirst.
Goal: Drink plenty of water and keep well hydrated.
- Alcohol Check: It is true that red wine has its benefits and contains anti-inflammatory compound called resveratrol but it can also lead to unintended outcomes. Usually an average drink contains about 100 calories and mixed drinks are more calorie dense. Additionally alcohol consumption can lead to low blood sugars, especially those taking insulin or sulfonylurea.
Goal: Limit alcohol to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
- Dental Health: Taking care of your gums and teeth can improve your overall health. Gum inflammation can lead to blood vessel inflammation. Swollen gums can lead to an increase in blood glucose. Find time for regular hygiene during the holidays.
Goal: Brush teeth twice daily and floss teeth at least once a day.
- Sense of Gratitude: Make time for reflection every day and reflect on things that brought you joy and happiness. Special times and memories are the most treasured gifts of the holiday season and will linger in our hearts and memory.
Goal: Take note of special moments.
by Asha Gullapalli, MS RD LDN CDE