It’s because of the candy.
“Even when you have a balanced diet and you’re maintaining your weight — burning as many calories as you consume each day — you have to account for those extra empty calories that you’re stealing from the top of your kids’ trick-or-treating bucket,” said Gina Brandenburg, CHES, a certified health education specialist with Tanner Health System and a coordinator with Get Healthy West Georgia. “You — and your kids — are going to find yourselves easily consuming a couple hundred extra calories each day when you go for the candy, which you probably don’t ordinarily have laying around.”
That’s how it starts, absently chomping on chocolate bars, and the biggest glutton-given holiday of the year is right around the corner: Thanksgiving. Then comes the season of holiday parties, Christmas cookies and getting too busy to hit the walking trail, and by New Year’s, you’re promising to do better next year. Really. You promise.
STEP 1: Keep Moving
According to Brandenburg, the trick to being healthier during the holidays ahead is to start making adjustments now, starting with your exercise routine.
“A lot of people cut way back on exercise when it begins to get cold out,” said Brandenburg. “Also, because many of the fresh fruits and vegetables we eat are going out of season, we start getting more of our meals from a can or the frozen foods aisle. So, you’re probably getting more calories and exercising less, and that’s a bad mix for your waistline.”
Brandenburg suggests bundling up for cold-weather exercise. Dress in layers that can be removed as you warm up during exercise, and make sure it’s bright or reflective enough to be seen now that daylight saving time is over and it’s beginning to get dark earlier. Try to choose parks or exercise trails that are well-lit to help avoid injury, and give yourself plenty of time to stretch, warm-up and cool down to prevent soreness.
And stay hydrated.
“Since it’s cold, you don’t find yourself sweating like you do in the heat of summer,” said Brandenburg. “But you’re still sweating. You still need to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.”
STEP 2: Cut Back on the Fat
Along with exercise, it’s a good idea to cut back on fat, sugar and calories when you can. Making small adjustments, even to timeless family favorites, is a great way to keep the holidays from wrecking your health.
“Look for places where you can use sweeteners instead of sugar, or margarine instead of butter,” said Brandenburg. “You can really scale back on the trans fats and calories without affecting the flavor of foods.”
And on days when you’re not attending holiday festivities —l ike the days leading up to Thanksgiving, and after — try even harder to plan healthy meals. Some grilled chicken breast strips from the freezer section at the grocery store, tossed with a bag or two of Italian salad mix from the produce section and some light caesar dressing and parmesan cheese can make a pretty healthy supplement to the season’s meal selection. Or plan a festive taco night, with ground turkey and light or fat-free sour cream, and plenty of shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and salsa.
“Planning healthier meals and lighter fare than usual for yourself and your family can save the scales from a crushing fate,” said Brandenburg. “Try to find healthy solutions where you can.”
STEP 3: Indulge in Moderation
For many, Thanksgiving is about quantity as much as (or more than) quality.
“It’s a holiday centered around a feast,” said Brandenburg. “People are going to eat — gorge themselves even —a nd that’s not necessarily all bad. A healthy diet is not without some indulgences. What we profess, though, is to indulge, but do so in moderation. You don’t have to eat to the point of making yourself ill. Eat until you’re full, then stop. If there are a lot of dishes that you want to try, try a little of each.”
Find healthier items, like salads and vegetables, to load up your plate rather than carb-heavy breads and fatty meats. And keep dessert modest.
“I think, for many of us, a small slice of pumpkin pie will actually go a long way,” said Brandenburg. “That’s why we only eat it once a year.”
STEP 4: Commit to Get Healthy
Get Healthy West Georgia offers a number of excellent, free tools for residents in Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties to help plan a healthy holiday season on its Web site at www.GetHealthyWestGeorgia.org.
Online, residents who register for free through www.GetHealthyWestGeorgia.org can sign up to participate in the “Maintain, Don’t Gain Holiday Challenge,” which is designed to help make sure participants enjoy — but don’t overindulge — at the holiday table. The challenge features more holiday tips, as well as new healthy holiday food recipes and more. The challenge runs from now through Dec. 31, and helps participants maintain a healthy weight throughout the holiday season.
Also, participants can earn points for logging their exercise and nutrition, reading articles, setting goals and more. Those who earn 500 points by Jan. 31 will be entered in a drawing to win a $25 gift card.
To participate in the “Maintain, Don’t Gain Holiday Challenge,” visit www.GetHealthyWestGeorgia.org and click “Get Started” to join or “Login” if you are a returning member. View and accept the challenge to participate, and log your exercise and nutrition each day.
“This challenge will help you see how much you’re eating versus how much you’re burning,” said Brandenburg. “It gives you perspective, and that gives you a little extra willpower when you’re deciding just how large a slice of pumpkin pie you’re going
More holiday diet and exercise tips are available online at www.GetHealthyWestGeorgia.org.