Holiday goodness doesn’t have to be bad

Dec. 26, 2013 @ 08:59 PM

Lisa Harrison, director of the Granville-Vance District Health Department, said holidays can affect health in a number of ways. Avoiding negative effects, she said, will help everyone enjoy the holiday more.

Changes in diet, irregular schedules, travel, even family togetherness all present their challenges to good health.

Dealing with holiday menus is the first challenge.

“During the holidays, it’s easy to have a lot of extras around,” Harrison said.

And those extras are likely to turn into extra pounds. Harrison suggested some strategies to cut the appetite for those foods that are most likely to cause weight gain.

“Eat fruits and vegetables first,” she said.

That will cut down on the craving when reaching the meats, starches and sweets.

“Drink lots of water,” she added. Not only will that cut your appetite, it will also keep your body well hydrated.

In addition to these specific recommendations, Harrison said a person needs to develop a healthy routine.

“One of the things that we often refer to for the public and our staff here is the ‘Maintain, Don’t Gain’ program that the Division of Public Health has as part of its ‘Eat Smart, Move More’ program,” she said. “It has tips and ideas on maintaining your weight.”

The Eat Smart, Move More website can be accessed at eatsmartmovemorenc.com.

The holidays not only serve up quantities of food. They usually offer a host of tempting sweets that make it even harder to maintain and not gain.

In addition to the problems they create relative to weight gain, holiday candies offer other hazards.

“We see an increase in broken teeth from hard candy,” said M.W. Wester III, a Henderson dentist.

Even if it’s not chewed, hard candy creates problems.

“Sucking on them creates decay. It’s basically sugar,” Wester said. “It’s a mouthful of problems.”

Holidays are travel times for many people who have to get on the road or into the air to get together with family members.

“Travel gets us off our regular schedules,” Harrison said. “Our bodies have their own schedules that holidays get us off of.”

Travel can be tiring. And navigating busy highways or airport security creates its own kind of anxiety.

In addition to its value in helping maintain body weight, Harrison said, “Regular exercise is one of the best stress reducers. Even a 10-minute walk can help reduce stress.”

She acknowledged the difficulty of maintaining a healthy life style, especially at holiday times.

“Knowing it and doing it are two different things,” Harrison said. “Health authorities recommend 60 minutes of moderate exercise or play each day. But even getting half that or a fourth of that can be beneficial.”

 

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.