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Top 15 Tips for Healthy Holidays

December 3, 2013

This holiday season, make health and wellness convenient and fun! Inspire through laughter and play. Discover healthful food choices, calculate ways to spend within your budget, and start the New Year feeling great. The faculty in the College of Health and Human Development offer their "top 15 holiday tips" to manage fun, fitness, food and financial wellbeing.

Healthy Holidays:  Stay fit, eat well, spend smart, have fun!

vertical image strip depicts people playing and exercising and also shows nutritious foods and depicts money and a clock showing it's New Year's Eve.
1. Play! 
Did you know that games with rules reinforce cultural behaviors and games without rules invite creativity? Try mixing it up: play an established game a new way--decide how to play as you go. The only rule: be respectful of each other — no rule stands unless all players are in agreement.

2. Focus on fitness. Holiday time brings on extra calories, and not necessarily in the most nutritious forms. Walk 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week--whatever your fitness routine, keep it going. (It doesn't have to be all at once to be of benefit).

3.  Stay hydrated. Herbal teas can be served hot or cold and there are a variety of flavors that don’t really need sweetening. If you drink alcohol, have a big glass of water in between drinks; Set a limit and stick with it; and if you’re going out, designate a sober driver.

4. Beware of the “holiday weight creep.” So very real, but most people don’t report noticing the creep until January! Skip the idle "treats" on the counters and in the break room. That way, after your holiday dinner you can honestly say you have room for pie.

5. Be Inventive. Pretend play — no rules and spontaneous —moderates your psycho-physiological condition and reduces stress. Studies have shown play not only makes you feel better while you’re having fun, it actually does make you happier over the long run. Even daydreaming reduces stress. Improvisational charades after dinner, anyone?

6. Stick to a nutrient-rich eating pattern. It can keep your energy and “jolly” spirit up during this busy time of year. Use the MyPlate guidelines for mealtimes: make half of your plate vegetables and fruits, a quarter whole grains and one quarter lean protein.

7. Fruit is sweet and better to eat. adding fruit to your plate helps reduce the amount of fat and refined sugar you’re likely to eat when desserts are served. Balance your dessert plate with fruit and enjoy smaller portions of rich desserts.

8. Bringing the appetizers? Choose a Mediterranean platter instead of the deep-fried-everything platter. Sliced or chunked vegetables, olives, whole grain crackers and hummus are nutritious crowd pleasers.

9. Make healthful choices convenient. Keep almonds in the cookie jar (a handful a day is all you need). Put baby carrots and colorful sliced bell peppers of green, orange, red and yellow on a plate on the first shelf of the refrigerator.

10. Plan ahead for spending. Develop a gift-giving budget, make a list of gift recipients and set a spending range for each person. Be realistic about your holiday budget, and stay within it.

11. Use cash to shop. Withdraw a set amount and leave your credit cards at home to reinforce staying within your budget. You can enjoy the feeling of knowing you’re paying on the spot – and no extra bills (or interest charges) will hit you in January.

12. Don’t sell yourself short. Account for social expenditures during the season too – extra dinners and lunches with friends and colleagues, bottles of mineral water and those poinsettia plants you bring to the party hosts can add up quickly!

13. Value yourself, too. Holidays are often about celebrating something meaningful with loved ones. This does not have to cost a lot of money.

14. Manage your debt wisely: If money is too tight to pay your credit cards down during the holidays, pay the minimum for now, but be sure to pick up the pace again in the new year.

15. Make tax season 2014 easier:
Make a donation to the College of Health and Human Development by midnight on December 31 and write off the gift when you do your taxes next year. Be sure to select us in the pulldown menu (and use the special instructions box to tell us what department, program or scholarship you'd like to support).
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Contributing to this article: Tom Cai, Linda A. Bradley, Yoko Mimura, Family and Consumer Sciences; Annette Besnilian, Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics with input from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; and Craig Finney, CSUN Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing.

-Jean O'Sullivan