Eat Well to Be Well: Set goals to stay healthy during the holidays

Good health starts with good health habits

I think we can all agree on one thing – holidays can be stressful! There’s shopping, cooking, entertaining family, and now, the unusual event of a viral pandemic showing few signs of slowing down. Yes, this holiday season, stress overload is at an all time high.

Despite not being able to completely control our current pandemic situation, focus instead on having a well-thought out plan of successfully managing what we can be in charge of – our health! By having plan and setting in motion strategies supporting our health and well-being, we can flourish and thrive like never before while feeling our best, even during uncertain times.  Here’s how:

1. Keep moving: Fitting in time for fitness during holidays can be challenging. But with some creativity and determination, it can be done. Start by avoiding long stretches of sitting. Make a goal to be up and moving for even just five minutes every 30 to 60 minutes throughout the day. Walk 10 minutes or more after a meal, play catch or Frisbee with your kids (or adults too!), put on music and dance, rake leaves, pace around the house, perform simple squats or lunge exercises, or walk around while talking on your cell phone. Activity helps reduce lower blood glucose levels, improves heart health and increases energy by getting muscles activated.

Goal: Work toward 30-60 minutes of activity a day.

2. Fill up with fiber: It’s okay to have an occasional holiday treat but be sure to also indulge and enjoy the abundance of seasonal fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains, helping reduce inflammation. Fill your grocery cart with brightly colored peppers, carrots, squash, and mandarin oranges, also take advantage of almonds, walnuts, brown rice, oatmeal, and vegetable-based soups and stews.

Goal: Aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily.

3. Hydrate with water: Staying hydrated is just as important during colder weather as it is during warmer weather. Water is your go-to beverage for quenching your thirst. Speaking of thirst, sometimes our brains confuse thirst with hunger. A large glass of water before a meal can help lessen the amount of food consumed.  Not a fan of plain water? Jazz up plain water – add a splash of flavor with a jigger of fruit juice or add fresh cucumbers, strawberries, lime or lemon slices or a sprig of rosemary to your glass. Flavored sparkling waters are another good calorie free choice without artificial sweeteners.

Goal: Drink six to eight glasses water each day (or to thirst).

4. Step out into nature daily: Each day, take time to go outdoors, take a deep breath of fresh air, listen to birds, feel the air on your skin, and soak in the beauty around you. Studies show being outdoors improves our heart rate, blood pressure, reduces stress while improving our mood and focus.

Goal: Spend at least 10 minutes outside everyday.

5. Have a mealtime strategy: Regular meals spaced about 4-5 hours apart is best for controlling blood glucose, providing nutrients to the body, maintaining metabolism, and satisfying hunger throughout the day. Skipping meals or going for long stretches without eating usually results in overeating later in the day.

Goal: Aim to have three meals a day with one to two snacks.

6. Take stretch breaks: Tight, achy joints and muscles are often associated with stress. That’s why taking time for daily stretch breaks can be a game-changer for stress-reduction. Besides alleviating stress, stretching also increases blood flow to muscles and joints, helping to reduce joint stiffness while relaxing tight muscles. This means muscles remain flexible, strong, and healthy while maintaining range of motion in joints.

Goal: Aim to stretch for up to five minutes three times a day.

7. Make sleep a priority: Who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep? As Americans, most of us are chronically tired from lack of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increased hunger, higher blood glucose levels, poor concentration, more illness, and impaired problem solving. Sufficient sleep is one of the best ways for protecting our health while helping avoid illness and fatigue.

Goal: Aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night.

Especially during seemingly out of control situations, it’s important to take charge of our own health. Make a plan and aim for goals that support your own health and well-being.


Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institutional management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for local clinics, an adjunct professor at an area community college where she teaches basic nutrition, and a freelance health and nutrition writer. She is the author of The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science On Food’s Power For Protecting The Brain From Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook. Visit her website at www.eatwelltobewellrd.com.


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