Guest column<br><br>Healthy holiday happiness<br>

One thing that always strikes me about these parties is the fact that they always incorporate a ton of food. A cookie social here, a turkey dinner there and the occasional finger-foodfest that might as well be a meal. It seems that I spend the entire month of December eating! If your holiday experience resembles mine then you might appreciate these simple tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle during this holiday season.

• Don’t skip meals to “make room” for evening parties. Starving yourself for that upcoming feast is not healthy for your digestive system and may encourage you to over eat at the party. Eat sensible meals throughout the day and you won’t gorge yourself in the buffet line. You may want to have a light snack, like skim milk or fruit, before you leave the house.

• If you do find yourself facing the buffet line with an empty plate, stop before you load up. Wander the line and see what foods are available before you fill your plate. This way you’ll be sure the leave enough room for the string beans at the end of the line.

• Also, when serving your own portions try to fill one-third to one-half of your plate with vegetables and fruit — you’ll be working towards consuming your five-a-day and you won’t have as much room for fatty, greasy foods.

• Beware of disguised healthy foods at holiday get-togethers. You’re going to find a lot of breaded, overcooked vegetables covered with cheese. People tell themselves it’s okay because they’re eating vegetables, but they underestimate the amount of hidden fat.

• Not recognizing when you’re full is often a culprit of over eating. So eat slowly and give yourself time to feel full. Take a break to decide whether you’ve actually had enough, and don’t wait too long between meals for that starved feeling. Remember that it’s okay to leave food on your plate!

• Socialize away from the buffet table so you’re not tempted to “graze” while talking.

• Don’t rush to the head of the buffet line. If you’re the last one in line it will minimize your time to fill up on seconds.

• When you’re finished eating, have a mint (or brush your teeth) to signal to your body that you are done.

• Don’t drop your exercise routine. Many of us feel greater stress and eat a little more this time of year, so it’s especially important to get our recommended daily physical activity (Adults need at least hour of exercise every day and kids need a full hour). Exercise helps to relieve stress and, of course, keeps the rest of the body feeling good too!

It is most important to maintain balance. If you choose to have that piece of pumpkin pie, then remember to walk to work the next morning or play an extra half hour of hide and seek with the kids to burn off some of those calories. Mindful eating and remembering to maintain a balance will afford you with adequate energy to really enjoy the holiday spirit with your family and friends. With that said, Happy Holidays!

(This article was adapted from the November 2004 publication of Because We Care distributed by the American Cancer Society, Flagstaff Office. For more information please contact Allie Stender-Mrazek at 635-0415 or astender@co.coconino.az.us.)

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