Community Wellness: Maintaining balance in eating, exercise key over holidays

Community Wellness: Maintaining balance in eating, exercise key over holidays


With the holidays just around the corner, you've already started daydreaming about the comfortable feeling of sharing a meal with friends and family.

Maybe you're craving a favorite holiday dish made just the right way.

But what can you do this holiday season to enjoy all of the festivities without busting at the seams and going into the New Year with a few extra pounds tacked on?

Below are a few small tweaks to consider that may bring balance to your season and keep your health goals on track. Pick one or two, or try them all!

— Look for healthier versions of your favorite recipes, or substitute a few ingredients with healthier options. Use whole grain bread in place of white bread for stuffing or bread crumbs. You can find a full list of healthy ingredient substitutions put together by the nutrition experts of the Mayo Clinic staff. Check out their website for some great ideas: suggests trying simple tricks such as using a smaller plate, eating slowly and waiting 10 minutes before taking seconds to see if you are still hungry. These strategies encourage proper portion sizes and help you avoid overeating.

— Be smart about what you sip on. Drinks like cider, egg nog and hot chocolate can add extra sugar and calories fast. Beer and mixed drinks can add up, too. Try to drink water throughout the day if you know you'll have a holiday gathering later in the day. Drinking enough water will also help you avoid overeating when dinner rolls around.

— Include physical activity in gatherings with friends and family. Going for a walk can be a great time to catch up with those you haven't seen all year. Gather up the kids and take a group trip to the park, on a nature walk, to play a game of touch football or whatever game your group enjoys.

Exercise is a great way to add balance on a day where you have decided to splurge at mealtimes. It can help lift your mood and keep you on track. Remember, all activity counts, even a quick five-minute walk around the block!

If you're really wanting to try some healthy new recipes this season I suggest checking out's "Ultimate Holiday Cookbook" ( There's a wide variety of specialty recipes if someone you love has allergies or follows a medically necessary diet. You will also find healthy recipes for all your favorite traditional dishes. ( also has a nice spread of recipes as does Food Network on its "Healthy Holiday Recipes" page (

Finally, check out the "What's Cooking: USDA Mixing Bowl" webpage (, where you can filter your recipe search criteria to fit exactly what you're looking for.

Here's to a healthy and happy holiday season!

Caitlin Kownacki is an educator for University of Illinois Extension serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. Contact her at 217-353-0740 or

Sections (1):Living
Topics (2):Food, Nutrition