Healthful Habits to Start Before the Holidays

By Eli Follick

It can be challenging to eat healthfully and stay active during the holidays. However, with some advanced planning, it’s possible to do both and reduce stress, too.

The following are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Diet and Exercise

Allow yourself to have your favorite foods, but stick to smaller servings, and balance them with nutritious options. Choose fresh fruit as a festive and sweet substitute for candy. Limit fats, salt, and sugary foods and drinks.

Look for opportunities to work physical activities into your holiday: Go for a
stroll after a family meal, take a walk at the mall, or dance to your favorite holiday music. Aim to get at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity. That could be at least 20 minutes a day or 30 minutes five days a week. It’s important to move more and sit less. (Before changing anything in your eating and exercise activities make sure to clear it with your physician.)

Food poisoning can ruin even the most festive celebrations. Take simple steps to protect your family’s health when you prepare and serve holiday meals. Wash your hands and work surfaces before, during, and after preparing food, and before eating. The CDC describes handwashing as one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs, especially during the winter months. It’s best to use warm water and soap and to make sure all parts of your hand up to your wrist get washed. Make sure children do this as well. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separated during preparation. Cook food at the right internal temperature to kill harmful germs. Use a food thermometer to check. Refrigerate perishable foods, including leftovers, within two hours of buying or cooking.

Cold Weather Safety and Home Heating

Outdoor activities during cold weather can expose you to several safety hazards, but you can take steps to be prepared while getting the exercise you need. Start by wearing warm clothing, a wind-resistant coat or jacket, mittens, a hat, scarf, and waterproof boots. Dress in layers. Always carry a cell phone. Work slowly when doing outside chores, and sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy sidewalk and driveway patches.

The CDC also suggests that you have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas-, oil-, or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician annually to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Cope with Stress

Everyone experiences stress from time to time. Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Learning healthful ways to cope with stress and getting the right care and support can help reduce stressful feelings and symptoms. The CDC has a special section on its web site which addresses these concerns (

Travel Safety

Whether you’re traveling across town or around the world, ensure that your trip is safe. Get your car ready for cold weather before winter arrives. Don’t drink and drive – and don’t let others drive when they’ve been drinking. Wear a seat belt and also buckle any children into their seats.

Prevent Injuries

Injuries often occur around holidays, but many can be prevented with some simple precautions. Use step stools instead of climbing on furniture when hanging decorations.

Most residential fires occur during the winter months. Keep candles away from children, pets, walkways, trees, and curtains. Never leave fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended.

Brighten the holidays by making your health and safety a priority. These tips will help keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy—and ready to enjoy the festivities.

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