Health habits over the holidays

Concordia students Brenn Kjellberg and Erin Thompson dish up at the Thanksgiving-themed meal in Anderson Commons. Photo by Morgan Schleif.
Concordia students Brenn Kjellberg and Erin Thompson dish up at the Thanksgiving-themed meal in Anderson Commons. Photo by Morgan Schleif.

Family, presents, cold weather and food all come along with the holiday season. But with fewer opportunities to spend time outdoors and more events with fatty and sugary foods, how can students work to stay healthy?

Many Concordia students take the opportunity to go home over the holidays and celebrate with their family.

“I like getting together with family and eating everyone’s yummy recipes,” said food, nutrition and dietetics major Alia Kopischke.

“We all get movies for Christmas presents then spend a whole day in our PJ’s watching them together as a family,” said nutrition and dietetics major, Danica Seifert.

Big gatherings with family and friends often mean more traveling, busier schedules and favorite holiday food.

With these holiday factors, it can be both easy to overeat and more difficult to get daily exercise.

Linda James, a professor in the nutrition and dietetics department, has three key areas of healthy habits that can be used all year round but are especially helpful during the holidays.

James gives these suggestions about planning ahead: do not go to an event on an empty stomach where you know there will be food.

If you arrive satisfied, you are likely to eat less. Eating lighter meals the day of an event with food can help keep you on track with your caloric intake for the day.

Never skip breakfast; it is the most important meal of the day.

Skipping breakfast can lead to eating more during the day and later into the night.

Having a healthy snack around will help in resisting the less healthy alternatives.

James gives these suggestions about making changes in your environment: watch your portion sizes and eat slowly.

This will help in avoiding overindulgence.

Avoid loitering at the table once you are finished eating. Move to a living room or family room to spend time with family and friends.

Sitting at the table after you are satisfied is likely to lead to grazing or second helpings.

Leave food in cupboards and put away food right after serving. If food is sitting out, you will be more likely to eat it.

Bringing a healthy food item along to share with family and friends guarantees that you will have at least one healthy option.

“Get the family off the couch and play some Wii. It’s an easy way to get some physical activity in,” said food, nutrition and dietetics major Sam Risan.

James gives these suggestions about making things healthier: using lighter dairy products such as skim instead of 2 percent or whole milk is an easy way to reduce fat.

Serving sauces and dressings on the side can help limit those extra calories.

Baking with fruit and vegetable purees is another healthy alternative.

Risan is trying to convince her mom to cook with applesauce instead of cooking oil.

“It’s a tradition every year to get together on Black Friday and try out new Christmas cookies … we’ve been trying to substitute little things for healthier choices without losing flavor,” said Molly Koester.

The holidays are a great time to go home and relax, but at the same time, there are simple ways to stay healthy.

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