Stay healthy during the holidays

The stresses and temptations of the holidays can make it challenging to stay fit and well. Here are a few suggestions to help see you through.

Handle food safely. Newspaper stories about E. coli, listeria and salmonella provide almost weekly reminders that even healthy foods can carry contaminants that can make you sick. Avoid consuming raw eggs or milk. Clean your hands and your work surfaces regularly. Rinse your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before preparing. Cook foods thoroughly. Make sure your foods are adequately chilled by keeping your refrigerator at 40 degrees F. or below.1

Get exercise. It’s easy to lounge your way through the holidays, watching football or Christmas specials, chatting with relatives and friends and munching on snacks. But don’t stop moving. Adults 18 and over need about 2-1/2 hours of moderate intensive aerobic exercise, such as walking or bicycling, each week. That may sound like a lot, but it’s less than 22 minutes a day. Keeping up your physical activity helps keep your weight from ballooning when the egg nog and gingerbread is passed around.2

Don’t overeat and eat healthy. It takes discipline not to eat excessively when the table is piled high with starches and meats. Do your best to balance your intake, taking fruits and vegetables along with the sweets. Take smaller portions. If one meal feels a little too bountiful, eat lightly the next time. And don’t linger at the buffet table: step away, so as to avoid temptation. Drink a glass of water before a meal.

Manage stress or depression. The deadlines for shopping and gathering can raise stress levels. So can extended time with family members you don’t see regularly. Conversely, the family atmosphere that’s celebrated during the holidays can contribute to the sense of isolation for those who are alone. It’s acceptable to acknowledge your feelings, even if they seem out of step with the seasonal festivity. Accept that few things, including holiday get-togethers, go exactly according to plan. Reach out to others if you feel alone. Don’t feel obliged to say "yes" to every request for your time. Build in some time to relax and breathe. And do your best to get your full quota of sleep.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
2. American Heart Association,