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9 Stay-Healthy Tips for the Holidays

Keep the focus on fun, not food

Most holidays are associated with certain foods. Christmas at your house might not be the same without your aunt’s green been casserole, but that doesn’t mean food has to be the main focus. Instead, throw yourself into the other rituals a holiday brings, whether it’s caroling or tree trimming.

Modify your eating times so that they jive with your relatives’.

Do your in-laws’ meal schedules fly in the face of yours? Here’s how to compromise: Say they wake up later than you do and serve a late breakfast at 10:30. Then they skip lunch and serve Christmas ‘dinner’ at 3 p.m. To keep your blood sugar steady without overdoing it on calories, have an early-morning snack (such as a piece of whole-grain toast) before your relatives rise and shine. Their late breakfast will count as your ‘real’ breakfast, plus some of your lunch. Enjoy the 3 p.m. meal – but don’t overdo it! – and have a small snack at around 8 p.m.

Cut down your own Christmas tree.

Rather than buying a tree from a roadside lot where the trees have been drying out for weeks, visit a tree farm that allows you to cut your own. It will be fresher and probably less expensive than they are at the lot. You’ll burn off calories and combat some of the blood-sugar effects of the sugar cookie you snuck by traipsing around the grounds in search of just the right tree. And your family will have one more fond holiday memory to look back on.

Indulge in only the most special holiday treats.

Skip the store-bought cookies at Christmas, but do save some calories in your ‘budget’ to sample treats that are homemade and special to your family, such as your wife’s special Yule log cake. Training yourself what to indulge in and what to skip is much like budgeting your mad money: Do you want to blow it on garbage that you can buy anywhere or on a very special, one-of-a-kind souvenir? Just don’t completely deprive yourself on festive days – your willpower will eventually snap, and you’ll end up overeating.

Christmas_Tree

 

Make the change!

The habit: Staying physically active during the holidays.
The result: Gaining less weight over the years.
The proof: A study conducted by the U.S. government found adults gained, on average, more than a pound of body weight during the winter holidays – and that they were not at all likely to shed that weight the following year. (That may not sound like a lot now, but it means having to buy roomier pants after a few Christmases pass.) The good news is that the people who reported the most physical activity through the holiday season showed the least weight gain. Some even managed to lose weight.

Stock the freezer with healthy meals.

Everyone’s overly busy during the holidays, and most of us want to spend our time shopping, decorating, or seeing friends and family, which leaves less time to cook healthy meals. Take defensive action several weeks ahead of time by cooking meals intended specifically for the freezer. You’ll be thankful later when you can pop one of the meals into the oven or microwave and turn your attention instead to writing out holiday cards with a personal message in each.

Pour the gravy and sauces lightly.

You may not be able to control what’s being served at a holiday meal, but you can make the turkey, roast beef, and even mashed potatoes and stuffing much healthier by foregoing the sauce or gravy or spooning on just a small amount.

Take the focus off food and drinks this holiday season by embracing a project that will have lasting meaning: Organizing your family photos.

What household doesn’t have a mountain of snapshots that need to be sorted? Dispensing with this source of clutter will be stress relief in itself, but you also will get an emotional lift when you glimpse the photos again. (Plus, what better holiday gift to give yourself or someone you love than a gorgeous album filled with family memories?) If you don’t already have a photo organization system, try this: Find a shoebox or another box that’s the right width to accommodate snapshots. Use cardboard rectangles as dividers between categories of photos. (You can also buy photo boxes with these dividers.) Write a category label across the top of each divider (‘Martha,’ ‘Christmas,’ ‘Family,’ and ‘Pets,’ for instance). As you go through each envelope of photos, slide the very best into an album, file other photos you want to keep into the appropriate category in your shoebox, and throw out the rest.

Toast the new year with just one glass of bubbly.

You may be celebrating, but that doesn’t mean that that you should send your meal plan (and your judgment) on holiday. Alcohol can interfere with your blood sugar by slowing the release of glucose into the bloodstream; it also contain a lot of calories – 89 calories per glass of white wine or champagne, 55 calories in a shot of vodka, and 170 calories in a pint of stout beer. What’s more, alcohol breaks down your inhibitions and judgment, which makes you that much less likely to resist the junk foods that you would otherwise be able to pass up.

Brenda Schmerl
source: www.rd.com
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Five Ways Christmas Affects Your Brain

Christmas is a time of year like no other; gifts are exchanged, little-spoken-to relatives are contacted, and appetising treats are consumed with great gusto. Christmas can be both a time of stress and a time of relaxation. But whether you love or hate Christmas it’s pretty difficult to avoid – and so your brain may be altered by the experience one way or another. Here are some of the main facets of the Christmas experience, and how they might affect your brain.

The festive spirit: The joy surrounding Christmas may influence some of the chemicals in your brain (dopamine and serotonin) which affect your happiness levels. Dopamine is known to be involved with reward-driven behaviour and pleasure seeking and serotonin is thought to increase our feelings of worth and belonging. So when people talk about “Christmas cheer” they may be on to something.

In fact, researchers at the University of Copenhagen conducted an imaging study to try and find the “centre” of the Christmas spirit in the human brain. Here, participants were shown Christmas-themed images and, in those participants who actively celebrated Christmas, there was increased brain activation in the sensory motor cortex, the premotor and primary motor cortex, and the parietal lobule. Previously these brain areas have been associated with spirituality, bodily senses and recognising facial emotions. While these results should be interpreted with some caution, it is interesting to note the physical effects that feeling festive can exert on your brain.

christmas

Stress: Not everyone finds Christmas an entirely joyful and festive time – many people find it very stressful. In fact, the burdens of navigating through a busy shopping centre to find the ideal gift for your other half, or of cooking the perfect turkey for a house full of hungry people, is enough to rattle even the calmest person. Stress can exert a physical response in your body, with the automatic release of adrenaline and cortisol. Further, cortisol has been shown to have a profound effect on the hippocampus, which may decrease your memory and ability to multitask.

Giving gifts: The giving and receiving of gifts is an age-old Christmas tradition and there’s no better feeling than seeing your loved one’s eyes light up when you’ve found the perfect gift for them. But why does giving make us feel so good? Generosity has been linked with the reward circuitry of our brain, causing the release of dopamine and endorphins. Researchers have described a “helpers’ high”, which is experienced after giving. The chemicals that cause this high can reduce stress and increase your desire to repeat these acts of kindness. So, while you may resent being out of pocket after buying your great aunt that pair of slippers, your brain at least ensures that you are compensated with a chemical reward.

Bonding with family and friends: The quintessential Christmas experience involves sitting around a table with your loved ones. In fact, it’s hard to even imagine the festive period without thinking of your family and friends. The bond between you and those special to you can result in the release of a hormone called oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin – sometimes referred to as the “cuddle hormone” – drives maternal behaviour, trust, and social attachment. As such, this hormone may help towards explaining that warm, fuzzy feeling you get at Christmas when surrounded by those you love and trust.

Overindulging: Indulging in our favourite food and drinks is all part of the Christmas experience – but overeating can affect your brain. It has been shown to activate a pathway linking the hypothalamus in the brain to the immune system. This leads to an immune response and low-grade inflammation, which may explain why you can feel unwell after eating too much. Of course, this doesn’t do much harm to your body after one extravagant Christmas meal – but, when overeating becomes a long-term issue, this inflammation can become chronic, and contribute to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

But for now, don’t worry too much if you’ve got Christmas on the brain, you’ll soon be back to your usual self come January.

December 21, 2016     Kira Shaw    Postdoctoral Researcher in Neuroscience, University of Sussex
 


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7 enduring lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life

Forget Love Actually. True wisdom lies in this Christmas classic.

By Matt K. Lewis | December 10, 2013
 

If you’re looking for proof of the decline of values, comparing two holiday movies — Love Actually and Frank Capra’s timeless black-and-white classic It’s a Wonderful Life — is illustrative.

The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr recently penned an excellent takedown of the former, calling it the “least romantic film of all time.” Among the pernicious lessons imparted, Orr says, is the notion “that love is overwhelmingly a product of physical attraction and requires virtually no verbal communication or intellectual/emotional affinity of any kind.”

Fortunately, It’s a Wonderful Life is still around. And in contrast to Love Actually, it’s chock-full of terrific lessons, ranging from moral to financial to practical. Here are seven:

1. Your life has purpose
“Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” says the angel Clarence to George Bailey. One of the obvious points of the film is that, without George around, so many things would have been different. We learn that Bedford Falls, for example, would have been Pottersville. Of course, Zuzu and the other children would never have been born.

But the impact would have stretched far beyond this small town. “George saved his brother’s life that day,” says the angel Joseph, recalling when George’s brother Harry fell through the ice of a frozen pond. Years later, Harry would become a war hero, saving the lives of others. The point is, we have no idea how significantly our lives affect others.

But that’s only part of the reason to value your life. Aside from serving others, our lives should be viewed as a gift. As the angel Franklin notes, “At exactly 10:45 p.m. tonight, Earth time, that man will be seriously thinking of throwing away God’s greatest gift.”

2. Keeping up with the Joneses is for saps
This message is subtly sprinkled throughout the film. But the final example, writes Bob Welch in his book 52 Little Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life, comes when George’s son announces that the neighbors have a new car. “Well, what’s the matter with our car?” George snaps. “Isn’t it good enough for you?”

George’s ambition to be more than he is creates a lot of his problems, and is the cause of much restlessness and unhappiness. This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive to better ourselves, but that maturity requires finding a balance. Learning to fully appreciate the blessings we have is a daily struggle for most of us, but most of today’s pop culture only reinforces consumerism and naked ambition.

The question is, how are we defining our worth these days? It’s a Wonderful Life leaves us with a clear message about that. “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings. Love, Clarence.”

Christmas_Tree

3. Bad guys don’t always get punished
“In many movies, the final scene shows the bad guy being led away in handcuffs,” writes Wes McAdams, a pastor from Texas. “It makes us feel good, knowing that justice has been served. Not so in It’s A Wonderful Life.” In fact, nothing bad happens to the villain.

“I love how George Bailey runs past Potter’s window and yells, ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!’ and that’s the last scene in which we see him,” adds McAdams.

In an era when things tended to be resolved before the “The End” sign appeared on the screen, “It’s a Wonderful Life deserves credit for not solving every problem with the tinkling of a bell,”adds Mark Spearman.

Welch also notes that in the 1940s, “the Motion Picture Production Code definitely stipulated that criminals must be punished for their crimes,” and the case has been made that Mr. Potter might have been guilty of larceny. During a Q&A in 1968, Welch recalls, Capra was asked about why Potter wasn’t punished. “[O]ur main interest was what happened to George Bailey. This Lionel Barrymore (the actor who played Potter) character was too crusty, too old, too happy with what he was doing to change. So we just left him as he was.”

It would have been easy to turn Potter into a sort of redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge who had seen the error of his ways. But in addition to avoiding a predictably sappy trope, Capra also reminded us that sometimes bad people get away with doing bad things.

4. Don’t hire someone just because they are family
This is more of a practical maxim, but with all the touch-feely lessons in the film, it’s important to cull some not-so-obvious and not-so-pleasant realities as well. “Uncle Billy, the brother of George’s father, nearly ruined the business,” recalls Julie Rains. “He drank on the job and didn’t seem to be a productive employee even in the best of times. George could have hired a better employee or given him lesser responsibilities, somehow finding a way to show generosity in a way that didn’t compromise the business.”

5. Appreciate how blessed you already are
During his tirade, George tells Mary, “Everything’s wrong!” But after his experience with Clarence, his whole perspective changes. This, explains Welch, is “because the stuff that does matter — family, friends, and faith — has now risen to such pre-eminence in his life that the rest doesn’t really matter.” Thus, he says things like, “Oh, look at this wonderful old drafty house, Mary! Mary!”

6. How to deliver a good toast
Okay, this one isn’t so deep, but it is an important skill. In one scene, George and Mary deliver this toast to a new homeowner: “Bread, that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life may always have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.” So often we drone on during these moments. But simpler really is better (and often more eloquent). “It reflects a sentiment woven throughout the story, that things of true worth are not measured in dollars, but in the currency of friendship and family, and the good karma one puts out into the world,” writes Mark Spearman.

7. Marry the right person
George’s mother tells him that Mary is the “kind who will help you find your answers.” She was right under his nose all along, of course. But once they do get married, she sticks with him through thick and thin.

Romance is merely one of the themes in this film — not the dominant theme as it is in Love Actually— and yet the romance between Mary and George is deeper and more palpable. I would argue this is because real romantic love transcends the superficial “love at first sight” baloney Hollywood is selling us. For more on that, see my post on why rom-coms are arguably worse than porn.

source: theweek.com


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25 Healthy Holiday Choices

By Suz Redfearn   WebMD Feature   Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH

Enjoy a tasty and fulfilling December followed by a regret-free January. Here are 25 healthy holiday choices to make, starting now.

Eat early. Don’t skip breakfast, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian. “Don’t let last night’s big meal keep you from having a healthy breakfast today, and every day,” she says. If you don’t commit to breakfast, you may spend the rest of the day overeating.

Graze. Eat small meals throughout the day. It helps you keep your blood sugar and energy levels in check. You’ll be less likely to feel moody or stressed, and you’ll be less likely to overeat at parties. Also, if you don’t arrive at the party with an empty stomach, alcohol won’t hit you as hard.  

Work out.  Exercise keeps your metabolism going, helps you digest and burn off calories, and can stabilize your mood.

Pair drinks with exercise. “For every alcoholic drink you have during the holidays, tell yourself you need to be physically active for 30 minutes to burn it off,” suggests Jamieson-Petonic, who’s also an exercise physiologist.

Stay hydrated. Choose water or low-calorie drinks more often than not. A nifty tip: “Twenty ounces of water 20 minutes before each meal keeps you hydrated while reducing cravings and calories when you eat,” Jamieson-Petonic says.

Snack. Heading to the airport? Pack healthy snacks. Think trail mix, whole-grain crackers, or even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

Map it out. Road tripping? Don’t wait till you’re starving then hit a fast-food joint. Plan ahead, so you can stop where healthy food is available. 

No comfy pants. Loose fitting clothes make it easier to overeat, Jamieson-Petonic says. Wear form-fitting garments that will let you know you’re overdoing it.

Lighten your drink. A wine spritzer is a festive way to keep calories and alcohol content low. Not into that? Consider light beer or a mixed drink with half a shot in it – make sure the mixer is low- or no-cal. 

Simply sip. Make that drink last all night by taking tiny sips. You’ll lower your caloric intake – and the chances you’ll insult Uncle Mort later. 

Window shop. Buffet time?  Cruise the food before digging in. Think through what’s offered and pick only the things you really, truly want. 

Veg out. Hit the crunchy vegetables. Hard. They’ll fill you up, making you less likely to overeat.

Go lean. Choose lean proteins: turkey (without the skin), fish (skip the fatty sauce), or pork. They can fill you up and give you lots of energy.

Embrace the season. Don’t completely avoid the festive holiday fare you can’t get any other time of year, like stuffing and pumpkin pie. Have those special foods in small amounts, but avoid things you can get all year, like mashed potatoes.

Give in. If a tiny portion of pie won’t cut it, then eat a full slice, just this once. But consider avoiding the crust, which is filled with saturated fat and calories.

Think small. Always use a small plate if there’s a choice. That way you can’t gather a mountain of food.

No touching. Don’t pile up your food. Play that game you used to play as a kid – don’t let your foods touch.

Do it yourself. Bring your own amazing dish you can turn to in times of need. Make your contribution a super-healthy, low-cal, extremely tasty dish that you can’t get enough of. If all the other offerings are too rich or fatty, you can rely on your own cooking. 

Step aside. When you’ve had your fill at the buffet table, move away. The farther you are from the food, the less you’ll try to get back to it. If you have to stand in the same room with the food, keep your back to it. 

Just a bite. Have all the desserts you want! But just a bite of each. That, Jamieson-Petonic says, is the way to not feel short-changed – but also not bloated or on the edge of a sugar freak out. 

Choose fruit. Afraid of the treats and what they’ll do to you? Then contribute to the party by bringing a big fruit salad. The sugars in fruit can squelch your desire for other sweets. 

Get chatty. Holidays are about catching up with friends and family you haven’t seen in a while, Jamieson-Petonic says. Focus on conversation and you’ll eat less.

Take your time. Savor the food. Appreciating each bite, Jamieson-Petonic says, can help you eat less and appreciate what you had.

Take stock. When holiday cravings hit, stop and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Just a few seconds might reveal that you’re really just tired or sad. A little talk with yourself can spare you some unwanted calories. 

Breathe and enjoy. Remember that the holidays are about love and time with relatives and friends. Take a deep breath, smile, and connect. 


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Don’t Fall Victim to the Holiday Heart Attack

Heart and Stroke Foundation    December 4, 2013

It’s a sobering reality amid the holiday cheer: More people die from a heart attack or stroke in the winter months than during warmer weather, with mortality rates averaging 10 per cent higher. For older Canadians, the danger is even greater. Plus, cold weather is associated with increased blood pressure, which in turn raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.

 Maintaining healthy habits will help reduce your risk through the festive season

You can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by making healthy choices any time of the year – eating well, being physically active, managing your stress, limiting alcohol and being smoke free. But of course that can be especially difficult this season, with its whirl of social demands, temptations – and stress.

“Maintaining healthy habits through the holidays is a challenge, but it’s so important,” says Heart and Stroke Foundation registered dietitian Carol Dombrow. “With a little planning and mindfulness, you can find a healthy balance and still enjoy the season.”

These tips will help you have a healthier holiday.

Eat for balance

Sugary, high fat and high calorie temptations are everywhere. To keep up your energy and get all the nutrients you need, limit treats and choose foods from all four food groups. Follow Canada’s Food Guide and ensure that half your plate is vegetables, one quarter meat or alternatives such as beans, lentils or tofu, and one quarter grains such as rice or pasta. Add in a glass of milk or some yogurt and fruit.

Snack before parties

Eating a protein-rich snack before a holiday party will help you stay fuller and say no to salty and sugary bites.

Keep indulgences small

With all the sweet treats offered over the holidays, you can still enjoy your favorites by keeping portions small. Or try these better-for-you swaps to satisfy your sweet tooth.  

Stay active

Regular physical activity boosts feel-good endorphins that help you manage stress. Winter sports like skating, tobogganing and skiing are a great way to make the most of the season. Prefer to stay warm? Consider indoor swimming or melt stress away with a yoga class.

Hit the snooze button

Shortchanging yourself on sleep can you leave you feeling cranky, raise blood pressure levels and even lead to overeating. Stay refreshed during the holidays by logging eight hours a night.

Shop smart

Head off stress by making a plan before you hit the stores. It will help you limit spending and avoid unnecessary backtracking. Skip the wrapping chaos by dropping off presents at a gift-wrapping station that donates proceeds to charity.

Sip smart

Whether you’re drinking a glass of wine or a cup of frothy eggnog, it’s easy to over-consume alcohol during the holidays. “Heavy drinking is a risk factor for high blood pressure and stroke,” says Dombrow. For men, limit alcohol intake to three drinks per day, to a weekly maximum of 15. Women should limit themselves to two drinks per day, to a weekly maximum of 10. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits. And remember that alcohol is also high in calories. 

Ask for help 

If you feel lonely or isolated during the holidays, seek out support from your friends, community, or place of worship. Take time to recognize and share your feelings with others. 

Keep it real

Without a big budget movie crew, it’s almost impossible to create a picture-perfect holiday dinner. Give yourself a break. Perfect may be unreachable but enjoyable is well within your grasp if you set realistic goals for the season.

source: www.care2.com


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10 Healthy Holiday Party Tips

By Suz Redfearn   WebMD Feature    Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH

Move over, Martha Stewart! Ready to cement your status as a legendary host or hostess? Here are 10 surefire ways to have folks vying for an invite to your holiday party.

1. Offer a signature drink with a small amount of alcohol and a lot of low- or no-calorie mixer. Alcohol, the center of many a holiday party, can derail your guests’ efforts to stay healthy. Not only is it packed with empty calories, it can also lower their control, increasing the chances they ditch their diet and overdo it at the buffet table.

You don’t have to go with grog or nog – a low-cal wine spritzer can work just as well, says Bethany Thayer, director of the Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Detroit.

Mix up some wine with club soda or diet citrus soda, add a splash of low-cal juice (think cranberry), and a pretty piece of fruit, like a raspberry. Give it a festive name, and it’s a win for you and your guests.

2. Set out only teeny-tiny plates. That way, your guests can’t possibly load up with piles and piles of food; it’s just not physically possible, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, registered dietitian and president of Nutrition Today with Amy J.

Throwing a dinner party? Go old school. Use 8-inch plates. “The holidays are a great time to use that vintage china, since plates used to be much smaller!” Jamieson-Petonic says.

3. Skip the chips, scale back the dips. Make vegetables – not chips – the star of your tablescape by cutting them into fun shapes or offering them on skewers. “Not only will the water content of the veggies start to make guests feel full, all that chewing will slow them down,” Thayer says. Just make sure you don’t derail healthy effects of eating veggies by providing high-fat, high-calorie dips for appetizers. 

4. Create a food-free zone. If your party isn’t a seated meal, serve food in one room only, leaving the rest of your home free for socializing.

If guests have to stand and stare at the food while they’re talking, they’re much more likely to get seconds, thirds, or more. But if they take one plate and relocate to a distant room, they are apt to get chatty and forget about refilling their plates.


5. Serving protein? Go lean. Consider fish or turkey for your main dish. Both are lean sources of protein that can easily carry a feast. If you opt for turkey, be sure to avoid skin. And choose a low-fat cooking method. Roast it on a rack, Thayer says, and the majority of the fat just drips away.

6. Bring on the beans. Beans are chock-full of fiber and plant protein and can help guests fill up fast, Jamieson-Petonic says. Instead of cooking them with meat, which ups the fat content and drives away vegetarians, Thayer suggests using liquid smoke – look for it in the grocery store near the barbecue sauce – to infuse beans with a deep, almost meaty flavor.

7. Deconstruct that casserole. “Casseroles are the very definition of comfort, but they’re often loaded with things like sodium, heavy cream, butter, and cheese,” Jamieson-Petonic says. Instead of baking a traditional casserole, serve a dish that lets the main ingredient go solo. Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, sweet peppers, butternut or acorn squash, and Brussels sprouts are just as delicious when prepared a different way. Bake or steam the veggies, then flavor with lemon juice, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or even spices like curry or ginger.

8. Go green. Offer a gorgeous salad filled with spinach rather than plain ol’ lettuce, Jamieson-Petonic says. That way your guests can fill up on a food source rich in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, iron, and calcium.

Make your own simple, low-calorie dressing from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and lemon juice; then toss with toasted pecans, lighter cheeses (like feta), tangerine slices, apples, pears, and dried fruit. The result: a festive salad that your guests will enjoy and remember. 

9. Shrink the desserts. A holiday party just isn’t right without tempting desserts. So don’t skip the treats, Thayer says – just offer very small portions. That way your guests can taste a little bit of everything.

Consider making many of those desserts fruit-based. “Don’t underestimate fruit and its place at the dessert table,” she says. “Dishes like an apple baked with lots of cinnamon can look great and taste amazing.”

10. Keep ’em movin’. Give your guests something to do, Thayer says. It’s better for circulation, digestion, and calorie-burning than standing – or sitting – around. Consider a game of charades or a scavenger hunt. Clear an area for dancing, or dust off that foosball or pool table. If it’s warm outside, offer bocce ball or horseshoes. Organize guests into teams and stage a competition – anything to keep them off the sofa.


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4 Worst December Diet Mistakes

December 9, 2013 | By Tina Haupert

It’s that time of year again when holiday calories lurk around every corner. Family parties, office get-togethers, Saturday night soirees… you get the picture.

But even if you try to be “good” around the holidays and stick to your healthy habits, you could still be committing diet mistakes that leave you a few pounds heavier come New Year’s. Avoid these December diet blunders!

Skipping meals to save calories for later
You might think “saving” your calories for a splurge later in the day (a holiday party, for example) is a smart idea, but you might actually be setting yourself up for a diet disaster. If you haven’t eaten all day, you’re likely to overindulge the second you are faced with a spread of appetizing food. Instead, eat normally and make small calories reductions all day long. For instance, hold the cheese on your breakfast sandwich or skip the dressing from your lunchtime salad. Those little changes add up, so when it’s time to splurge later on, you’ll have “saved” calories without starving yourself all day, which, of course, makes navigating temping party fare a lot easier.

Thinking “healthy” calories don’t count
I always use to think if I was selecting healthy foods (veggie crudites and dip) over not-so-healthy foods (bacon-wrapped scallops) at a holiday party, the calories didn’t really count. Sure, veggies and dip and similar healthy appetizers like hummus and crackers or spiced nuts, are generally low-calorie options, but the calories still add up, especially if you munch on them all night long. Instead of overdoing it, try using a small plate to serve yourself. Having a visual representation of what you’re eating will help you keep even those healthy calories in check.

Feeling a little too festive with the holiday cocktails
Having a drink or two at a holiday party is a wonderful way to relax, have fun, and join in the merriment of the moment. However, it’s easy to feel a little too festive once you’ve had a few glasses of spiked eggnog. And it’s not just about consuming too many calories. If you drink too much, you don’t have as much control over what you eat, which can ultimately lead to your pants feeling a little tighter. If you feel out of place without a drink in your hand, you can pace your drinking by alternating seltzer water with a wedge of lime in between alcoholic drinks. And here are some additional ways to enjoy cocktails guilt-free!

Assuming you can just work it off
Regular exercise is a great way to manage excess calories during the holiday season, but it can’t make up for all of your diet mistakes. For example, a piece of pecan pie will set you back almost 500 calories. If you want to work that off in the gym, you’ll be trudging along on the treadmill for close to an hour! Who has time for that? Staying active will help keep those holiday calories in check, but don’t rely on your workouts to ultimately keep the pounds off.