Why must some of the most joyous times of the year also seem to accompany flu shots and days stuck with a cold? Well, they don't have to! Here are a few tips to go winter after winter without having to buy a box of tissues.
1. Rethink What "Holiday Goodies" Means
It might seem like something your taste buds don't want to hear, but you should try to eat healthfully over the holidays and keep the not-so-good-stuff for you at bay. Which is better: to eat a few well-chosen "treats" in moderation, or to go overboard and get sick during chunks of the winter? This winter remember to:
• When eating foods, keep towards lower glycemic foods like yogurt, apples and peanuts, that won't quickly spike your blood sugar.
• Avoid excess caffeine, alcohol and foods with higher saturated and trans-fats.
• Keep intake of whole fresh fruits and vegetables up, and utilize new and creative ways to get these healthful heroes into your holiday "goodies." Instead of chocolate chip cookies and candy canes, try a bowl of assorted berries with slivered almonds, light whipped cream and unsweetened cocoa powder. Instead of ranch dressing for veggies, try a spicy bean dip. These kinds of thoughtful changes will not only be enjoyable, but will ensure that you get a lot of disease-fighting fiber, antioxidants and plant-based nutrients.
• Avoid foods with refined sugars as they offer far more harm than benefit to the body, and can really run you down and make you tired.
2. Vitamin D
There's been some controversy over whether Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) assists with immunity. Certainly for those who have successfully used it for years to abate their colds and flues, there's little doubt regarding its effectiveness. This vitamin is made in your skin after sun exposure. So in the darkness of the winter, you'll have to replenish it by eating fortified foods, fatty fish, or using supplements. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a Vitamin D supplement to find out the correct dosage for you.
3. Avoiding Stress
The biggest enemy to health over the holidays is stress. Stress elevates cortisol levels that will, if left elevated, inhibit the immune system. While stress is seemingly everywhere at every turn, the good news is that there are many ways to fight it or greatly reduce it. Making an effective plan to handle shopping, parties and cooking, and delegating these tasks will go a long way toward stress reduction. Meditation or pray, getting extra sleep, spending time with loved ones and in nature, and finding quiet time just for yourself may also help.
Keeping fit during the winter months does several things-It keeps stress levels down, gives you more energy to handle the holidays, helps prevent extra holiday pounds and helps prevent disease. So find ways to fit it in. Go for long walks, hit the gym, and counting every step while Christmas shopping.
These tips, along with others you've heard such as keeping hands cleaned and avoiding touching your face, will go a long way to keeping your holidays as healthy as possible!
Catherine S. Hains, MS, RD, CLT has been interested in health and nutrition since she was a young child. Growing up in Fort Worth, TX, she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Texas Christian University and wrote for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for 12 years. Her life-long interest in nutrition and disease prevention never waned, and she went on to earn her Master's Degree in Nutrition from Eastern Michigan University. Cathy, now a Registered Dietitian, owns Lighthouse Nutrition and Wellness in Gig Harbor, WA where she enjoys inspiring people of all ages to make losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle easy, fun and permanent. She enjoys good food, cooking and food preparation, and showing others how healthy this can be. Her other pastimes include traveling, art, music and family life. She also likes staying fit with tennis, bicycling walking and jogging, researching nutrition and helping clients be at their best. For more information on Cathy, visit www.lighthouse-nutrition.com or write to Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.