As more and more Americans face diet and health issues, the Yancey County News invited local nutritions Medea Galligan to write a weekly column addressing nutrition and healthy living. This is the inaugural column, and we hope you enjoy it!
By Medea L Galligan
Although many of us find it challenging to stay healthy during the year, the Holiday season brings with it its own set of special circumstances. Holiday parties, baking traditional Christmas goodies, traveling to see friends and family, and hosting guests in our homes all result in a higher consumption of sugary and high fat treats, and much less time to exercise. Besides consuming too much of the wrong kinds of food and drink, colder weather and more time indoors combine to create what is known as the “cold and flu season”, making life miserable for the afflicted.
So what can you do so that you can survive the Holidays without gaining 20 pounds, or catching a cold every time a co-worker or family member coughs or sneezes?
As a Holistic Health Coach, I’ve put together a list of 4 simple things you can do to keep your family healthy through the Holidays and well into the New Year.
• Stay Hydrated! While eggnog, soda, cider, juice, wine, beer, and all alcoholic drinks have a well-entrenched past in traditional merry-making, and they may contain water, they actually dehydrate your body. Chronic dehydration is often the cause of headaches, joint pain, mood swings, and dry skin, among many other ailments, so be sure to drink plenty of clean, filtered water. By starting your day off with a large glass of water, you rehydrate your body and literally “start your engine”. Drinking water throughout the day helps your body flush out toxins, thereby boosting your immune system. Due to chronic dehydration, we often mistake hunger for thirst, so making a habit of drinking a large glass of water before reaching for food is a basic tenet of getting to and maintaining a healthy weight.
• Eat More Fresh Greens! Find creative ways to get more green vegetables and fresh herbs into your meals and Holiday recipes, like adding fresh cilantro to a bean burrito, or adding collards, mustard greens, or kale to your favorite soup recipe ( or check out my Extra Vegetable Soup recipe at www.HealthyCookingConcepts.com). Greens are loaded with chlorophyll, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which together nourish and detoxify your body. Fresh greens add refreshing color and texture to heavy winter meals of starchy vegetables, meats, and cheeses, and fill you up without filling you out. Explore the fresh greens section in the produce department of your grocery store, and experiment with lightly sautéing, steaming or waterless cooking a variety of green vegetables, and create some new, healthy and delicious Holiday meals and side dishes this year.
• Stay Active! If you already have an exercise program, and Holiday plans have made it impossible to get to the gym or your classes, you can still find ways to visit with family and friends and keep your metabolism functioning in high gear. Get out and take a brisk walk in the winter air for at least 30 minutes, and invite friends and family to join you. A fun game of football or basketball is a great way to reconnect with friends and family, all while getting your blood pumping and fresh oxygen in your lungs. Aside from burning calories, numerous studies have shown that exercise stimulates the immune system by increasing the circulation of white blood cells. If you are exercising regularly, the likelihood of your acquiring the flu or other viral illness decreases quite dramatically and studies have clearly shown this. In one such study, staying active cut the risk of having a cold by 50 percent, and cut the severity of symptoms by 31 percent among those who did catch a cold. The researchers noted that each round of exercise may lead to a boost in circulating immune system cells that could help ward off a virus.1
• Slow Down and Enjoy The Season! Whether you are at a Holiday party or sitting down to Christmas dinner, take time to appreciate your family and friends, the décor, and the special foods that are prepared this time of year. Take time to really taste each bite, and to chew your food thoroughly. Digestion begins in the mouth, and when we take time to chew, our bodies have time to tell our brains when we are full, and we can avoid overeating. Slowing down allows us to get more pleasure from smaller portions, and allows us to enjoy a greater variety of Holiday goodies without gaining weight.
By adopting these simple practices, you are likely to not only enjoy a healthier Holiday season, but a healthier life. If you have any questions, or feel that you could benefit from one-on-one support in adopting a healthier lifestyle, feel free to contact me for more information at (828)989-9144, or through my website at www.HealthyLifestyleConcepts.com.
1 Br J Sports Med. 2011 Sep;45(12):987-92. Epub 2010 Nov 1. Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults.
Medea L Galligan, a local holistic health coach, earned her Masters of Science in Nutrition from Oklahoma State University, and also attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Health Coach Training Program, located in New York City. Since 1998, she has helped thousands of people of all ages improve their health and well being through support and encouragement, exploring which foods are right for them, and assisting them in bringing back the joy of cooking and eating.