Find balance for a healthy holiday season

Before I provide you with valuable tips and ideas on how to have a healthy (and not overindulge) holiday season. I want to give you a friendly reminder to get your annual flu shot. I just went through the “ordeal” of getting my three kids (ages 5, 5, and 2) their shots, so the “sting” is fresh in my mind.

Anyone over the age of 6 months is highly encouraged to get a flu shot or flu mist (you can get the mist if you are between the ages of 2 and 49 and not pregnant). The mist is just a simple mist that you inhale and no shots are involved. You need to ask your healthcare provider for more information on if you can get the mist or not. The big difference besides that lack of a needle is the flu mist has a live (active) flu virus in it and therefore not recommended for everyone. Either the shot or mist will protect you throughout the entire flu season. You can get them at your doctor’s office, a health clinic, health department and some grocery stores and drug stores. Just keep in mind that the more people that are vaccinated, the less the flu will spread.

OK, now some tips to survive the holiday season and not have your New Year’s resolution be to recover from your holiday indulgences. The key is to find balance where you can enjoy yourself but not to the point of regret. Balance can be as simple as eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast and continuing these habits throughout the day with possibly a treat at the end of the day. As I have mentioned in my previous columns on healthy eating that moderation is the key and you can eat anything you really want as long as you balance it out with healthy choices. In addition, research has shown that one healthy activity (eating a nutritious breakfast) is more likely to lead to other healthy choices when it comes to eating and activity. For example a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit will encourage a person to have a healthy lunch and take a walk after work or go to the gym. The balance comes into play when all these healthy decisions allow you to have a few cookies or a piece of cake sometime during the day.

With the amount of holiday parties ahead, I wanted to provide you with some advice on how to survive and it all starts with a little planning and preparation:

Make sure you don’t go to a party starving, having skipped breakfast and lunch with the intention of eating all you want at the party. It’s a much better idea to eat a healthy breakfast and have a light lunch or snack before the party. This will still allow you to enjoy all the delicious food they have there, but not to the point of overindulgence. As previously stated, enjoy anything but in moderation.

Bring a healthy dish to the party. Offer to bring something to the party and then make something that is an alternative to the rich and high calorie party food usually available. Some suggestions are veggie with a light dressing/dip, fruit platter, roasted winter vegetables, mini turkey and ham sandwiches.

Be mindful of what you what you eat at the party. Choose a few things that you would normally not eat and then spend time talking to people you normally don’t see or just met. It is much nicer to catch up with people and leave the party in a good mood instead of with a stomach ache from eating too much

Keep active during the holiday season. If you regularly exercise, keep it up over this hectic time of the year. If you are not a regular exerciser, a simple walk will not only help to curb your party indulgences, but also help ease the stress of this time of the year.

Now, of course the holiday season will bring a few indulgences and times when we skip our exercise, but is all comes back to balance. If you are healthy and active the majority of the time, it allows for hose few extra cookies, cakes or pies.

Dr. Kirsten Lupinski is an assistant professor at Albany State University in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department. She has a B.S. in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina, an M.S. in Health Education from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate in Education from the University of Cincinnati. She has worked in the health education field in various capacities (corporate health, community health, college health and wellness and university education) for more than 15 years. She and her husband have three young children (5-year-old twin sons and a 2-year-old daughter).