Enjoying the “Taste” of the Holiday Season -- in Healthy Moderation
- Created on December 12th, 2008
- By The National Cancer Institute
It’s that time of year again—filled with many festive celebrations for many African-American families. Of course, along with these celebrations come the decadent desserts, bottomless cocktails and endless entrees. It can be difficult to be healthy during the holidays, but remember this: There is no need to deprive yourself of your favorite treats or abandon all the healthy habits you may have developed since last New Year’s Day. This December, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) focuses on what you can do—as opposed to what you can’t do—to have a healthy and happy holiday.
DO get more active. Some additional physical activity will help you expend some of those extra holiday calories and avoid holiday weight gain. You don’t need to buy special clothes or belong to a gym to get more active over the holidays. Work it into your everyday routine. The easiest exercise you can do is to go for brisk walks whenever you can-- park further back in the parking lot, walk a little extra while shopping at the mall or go for a walk with friends or family members after holiday dinners. Be sure to walk only in safe, well-lit areas. You can also dance, climb stairs, rake leaves, play basketball or toss a football with a friend or family member— any activity that keeps you moving. Each week, try to aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise such as hiking uphill or jogging) as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends.
Already get regular exercise? Good for you! Try not to let the busy holiday season derail your workouts. If you get off track, add exercise into other parts of your day and get back to your regular routine as soon as you can. Any physical activity that you do will help you control your weight, maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, and reduce risk of cardiovascular conditions and even some cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.
DO eat healthy, nutritious foods. We know it’s hard and let’s face it; we’re all going to splurge from time to time during this delicious holiday season. We never really think about our risks for cancer or other disease when we’re eating for enjoyment--but try these tips to keep your splurging in moderation:
While you’re at the dinner or buffet table, fill up on your vegetables and fruits first. According to the National Cancer Institute, people whose diets are rich in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of getting cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, lung, and there is some suggested evidence for colon, pancreas, and prostate. By eating 5 to 9 fruits and vegetables, you are also less likely to get diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, all major concerns for the African American community. This may sound like a lot, but one serving size is small (it fits in the palm of your hand).
Share desserts with another friend or family member. This will help you enjoy more of your favorite things without so much of the fat. As you probably know, eating foods high in saturated fat increases the risk of many chronic diseases so it’s best to do so in moderation. Occasional splurges can be fine, but get back on track with your normal eating habits as soon as you can.
Use some healthy recipes for your entrees, appetizers or side dishes. Do honey candied yams, angel food cake with mixed berries, or garlic mashed potatoes sound good to you? For the recipes, call 1-800-4CANCER or visit www.cancer.gov/ncipubs to request a free copy of the Down Home Healthy Cooking recipe book.
Use healthy cooking techniques. Put away that deep fat fryer—boil, roast, bake, grill, braise or stir-fry instead. Use low-fat or skim-milk while cooking, add more herbs and spices instead of salt, and steam your vegetables whenever you can.
Visit www.cancer.gov or call 1-800-4CANCER to learn more about how more physical activity and a healthier diet may help reduce your cancer risk. Small changes can make big differences. This season, try to adopt some new, healthy habits and start a new tradition for you and your loved ones. After all, having a healthy and happy holiday is always a “do.”
The National Cancer Institute is the nation’s lead federal agency for cancer research. For more information about cancer research and resources, visit www.cancer.gov or call toll-free 1-800-4CANCER.