November 10, 2010

Feeding the Holiday Spirit with Good Health

If it seems like bene-fit has been on a food and nutrition bender lately, well - we have!  During the holiday season, many people are actually more active than during the rest of the year.  With multiple shopping trips, marathon gift wrapping sessions, groovin' to holiday music, and weekends filled with entertaining and holiday events, most winter weight gain isn't for lack of movement - it's for lack of attention to what fuels that movement.

The good news is that there is good news!  Many folks tend to get in an "all or nothing" mood around holiday food - either it's no sweets at all or it's the entire pecan pie after dinner.  Some people get so confused about which indulgences to make (eggnog or hot buttered rum?  brownies or candy canes?  turkey or ham?) that they forget which choices will actually provide more energy, nutritional value, and overall good health in the end.  Others are just so jam-packed with activities that by the time they sit down, they realize they've eaten four of their child's leftover schoolroom cupcakes and called it "dinner."  Sound familiar?

Not you, loyal bene-fitter!  You know, for example, that pumpkin pie is rich in fiber and can be made healthfully from scratch with a few simple substitutions, making it a better choice than other sugary, saturated-fat heavy desserts.  You also know that loading up on protein (white-meat turkey is still the best choice!) and vegetables (the less "dressed," the better - think salad over green bean casserole; baked potatoes over whipped ones) holiday meals is a great strategy to avoid overstuffing yourself when the bread basket gets passed around.

Smart eating doesn't end at home, either.  What about when you're out and about running errands without a moment to sit and think about your diet?  Choose black coffee or flavored brewed coffees over sugar-laden "ice blend" or "latte" drinks, and reach for protein snacks (yogurt, lowfat cheese, milk) over carbohydrate-packed mall fare (pretzels, cookies, pastries) that will only make you feel sluggish.

And what about those "forbidden" foods, the stuff that sounds bad just thinking about it - eggs (with yolks!), peanut butter, whole milk, or chocolate?  Here's some more good health news on all those foods: a deviled egg can give you essential omega-3 fatty acids, natural peanut butter can actually reduce the number of overall calories eaten daily, whole milk blows away its skim and lower-fat counterparts in terms of soluble Vitamin D (and is much more satiating in smaller serving sizes), and about 1.6 ounces of dark chocolate daily is as rich in flavonoids as many comparable fruits and vegetables.  Remember - be reasonable with portion sizes and servings of each of these foods to make sure to maximize their bene-fits for your health.

The holiday season should never be all about "swaps" and "skips" and deprivation, so make sure to add enjoyable treats and delicious desserts to your active agenda to keep a healthy balance of mind, body and spirit.  Stay active with
indoor exercise classes as the seasons get colder, embrace the neighborhood holiday-themed 5K run/walk events, and make the time for a yoga or meditation session with your family, friends, or partner to carve out some quality time together.  'Tis the season to find your bene-fit!

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