Posts Tagged ‘healthy holidays’

Inhale. It means to breathe in. Slow or controlled breathing is often used to reduce heart rate, calm emotions, and lower stress. This controlled breathing technique has been around thousands of years in yoga, meditation, and other health practices. I saw this advice recently reminding me to inhale during this holiday season, and I loved it.

When I saw the admonition to inhale, I took it as a reminder to take it all in. That is the inhale; be purposeful in choosing what to take in and what to pass on. Our holiday schedule looked extra hectic this year with one daughter dancing in a professional nutcracker production, a new college student rejoining our family for her extended break, travel for work and a visit from my parents. I knew with all this I had to be extra careful about what I inhaled.

Taking that same definition of inhaling and applying it to our holiday busyness can be difficult. We are often rushing from event to event, and tackling a never-ending list of holiday fun. Advice is always easier to give than take in and follow. Several friends shared with me what they do to inhale the holidays. These can be simple, such as:

Spending a quiet morning before everyone is up, enjoying coffee and the Christmas tree and remembering why we celebrate the holiday. ~ Sarah

Making an effort to turn off the TV and put away phones so that family time can be enjoyed. ~ Amanda R.

Spending some quiet time and making sure to get quality sleep. ~ Jessica

Making an effort to start each day with an intention and not rushing out the door. ~ Amanda W.

Admiring a Christmas tree in the darkness and taking a moment to be grateful. ~ Lorrissa

Taking a few minutes after work to take some deep breaths, and reflect and center before joining family and evening activities. ~ Amanda B.

Other ideas included some simple planning to emphasize the events and traditions that matter most, such as:

Making a December bucket list of the most important activities and traditions and hanging it up for the family to see. This makes it easy to say, “This isn’t a priority for us” when things come up. ~ Becky

Make an effort and a plan to focus on small acts of kindness and simple holiday experiences.  Leaving treats for a mail carrier, dancing to Christmas music, or driving around to look at lights, have these things planned out so they can be included and enjoyed. ~ Amber

Besides having a plan and making simple changes, prioritizing and self-care can help with your holiday inhale. Other ways to inhale include:

Reflect on what is important to your holiday celebrations. Realize that this may change over time. Thinking about what is most important will help you to be intentional when choosing how and who to spend your time with. It is hard to make your holiday meaningful if you don’t decide before the rush starts what gives it meaning.

Ask for help. Let your family know how they can support or help with holiday tasks and plans. Accept their offers to contribute. This will help involve them, as well as lighten your workload. This can also be a way to share traditions or teach skills with children and other family members.

Keep in mind the holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. In other words, pace yourself. If adding an extra party or gift to your schedule causes you stress, then don’t. The parties, events, gifts that you do choose to participate in- inhale! Be present as you experience and participate in them.

Take care of yourself. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Extra social gatherings can be fun, but do not compromise your physical, mental or financial wellness by doing too much. Acknowledge that you cannot do everything for everyone. Practice saying “no” without guilt.

Do not throw out your routine. Do your best to make healthy food choices, relax, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Sticking to your routines will help with your endurance and patience as you manage the holiday.

Most importantly, whatever you do this holiday season, enjoy the inhale!

Writer: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewers: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Belmont County, Dunfee.54@osu.edu


LifeCare Inc. (2011). Managing Holiday Stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/Conquering_Stress_Handout_1.pdf

Butanis, B. (2014, June 9). Ten Tips for Enjoying the Holidays. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/stories/ten_tips_for_enjoying_holidays.html.

Keep it Real This Season. (2019, December 4). Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/12/05/keep-it-real-this-season/.

LifeCare Inc. (2011). Managing Holiday Stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/pdfs/Conquering_Stress_Handout_1.pdf

Russo, M. A., Santarelli, D. M., & O’Rourke, D. (2017, December 1). The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Retrieved from https://breathe.ersjournals.com/content/13/4/298.

Read Full Post »

liquor-264470_640Wine and Beer drinkers often like to tout the health benefits of their favorite pastimes. However, if you read the peer-reviewed studies on alcohol consumption and health, most aren’t very supportive of drinking. I’ve heard friends proclaim that in the “blue zone” Mediterranean region where people live long lives, wine is a central part of the diet. However, wine and alcohol are not common factors in all of the blue zones around the world such as Loma Linda California. Yes, there are some phytochemicals in wine, but there’s also phytochemicals in fruity snacks too- catch my drift? The point is that alcoholic beverages, like juices, and sweetened beverages, are low in nutrition and high in calories. Excessive and regular alcohol consumption has been associated with obesity, heart disease, cancers (especially throat and stomach), high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver disease.

OK so I know that this information is probably not going to stop you from having a few this holiday season (it’s not going to stop me!) To be fair as well, most of the studies linking alcohol to disease are population-based and not randomly controlled which is the research gold standard. Ethically, it’s really hard to randomly assign people to a drinking group if they haven’t touched alcohol and follow them to see if they get sick. Instead, epidemiologist often look at self-report surveys of drinking behavior (which are flawed) and compare with disease occurrence. Although many of these studies report that drinking is linked with health problems, most also conclude that there isn’t an association between MODERATE drinking and problems.

Moderate drinking is defined as 2 servings per day for men, and 1 serving per day for women. A serving is defined as 12 ounce beer (4 ABV), 5 oz of wine, and 1.5 oz of 80 (1/2 shot glass) proof distilled liquor. Each serving stands at about 150 calories each. Be sure to read labels- products with higher alcohol and added sugar will have far more calories. For example, a 12 oz fruit malt-liquor beer (8 ABV) may have as many as 350 calories compared to a 12 oz lite beer with only a 100 calories! However, since alcohol is not regulated by the FDA, there aren’t label requirements. You may have to visit websites such as Calorieking or ChooseMyPlate Supertracker to find out calorie or other nutrition information.

People with diabetes and other chronic diseases need to be especially cautious. Beer and wine can gradually raise blood sugar, and stimulate overeating. Again, label reading is key. Most 12 oz beers have about 12-15 grams of carbohydrate but flavored beers might have as much as 50g per 12 oz which is equivalent to 11 teaspoons of sugar! Flavored drinks like Margaritas can be even worse. Distilled liquor is high in calories but low in carbohydrate, that doesn’t mean a person with diabetes should finish off a flask! Excess alcohol consumption can also lower blood sugar because it inhibits the liver’s ability to release glucose.

Here are some holiday drinking tips for you.

  • Just like with deserts, drink slowly and use all your senses to appreciate the product. Drink during or after meals to avoid overeating.
  • Read labels, and stick with sugar-free products, lite beers or white wine as much as possible.
  • If you have diabetes, check blood sugars before and after you drink to understand how alcohol impacts your blood sugars.
  • Most importantly, STAY OFF THE ROAD and be careful!! Accidents, falls and injury aren’t much fun for anyone during the holidays!!

Author: Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Wood County


Centers for Disease Control. (2015). Alcohol Fact Sheet. Retrieved from cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm

American Diabetes Association. (2015). Alcohol. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/alcohol.html

U.S.D.A. (2015-2020) Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietary-guidelines-2015


Read Full Post »

1017151259gThere are many things I love about the holiday season: the lights, cheer, traditions, time with family and friends, just to name a few. At the same time, there is one thing I dread: baked goods and sweet treats seem to be everywhere, and avoiding them takes significant planning and effort!

I have many friends who enjoy baking, either as a tradition during the holiday season or as a hobby throughout the year. Most of these individuals will tell you that they like to give away the treats they make because they don’t want to keep them in the house. This statement leads me to wonder, if bakers themselves don’t want to be tempted by baked goods in their homes, what leads them to think that others will appreciate the temptation if given these items as a gift?

A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the average American adult gains about a pound between mid-November and early January each year. Although a pound might not seem like a big deal, those pounds add up when they’re not burned off in the spring, summer and fall months, which is the case for many Americans. A study published in the same journal concluded that at least half the weight gained during the holiday season remains into the summer months and beyond. With this information in mind, giving baked goods to people who are trying to watch their weight, cut back on sugar consumption, count calories or generally make more healthful food choices is hardly a gift. Presenting well-intentioned people with tempting sweet treats can sabotage even the best of efforts!


If you like to bake during the holiday season, consider trying an alternative hobby or starting a new tradition that supports health. If you are a regular recipient of holiday baked goods, don’t be afraid to suggest the following ideas to the bakers in your life:

  • Make and exchange ornaments, small gifts or hand-written cards in place of cookies and candies
  • Create fruit santas (such as those pictured above) or other holiday fruit treats instead of baked goods
  • Give fruit baskets as gifts in place of cookie trays, cakes and pies
  • Play board or card games with children when you would typically spend time baking together
  • Take a family trip to a park, museum, theater production or holiday lights display
  • In the workplace, suggest a “no dumping” policy to discourage coworkers from bringing cakes, cookies or other desserts from home. Bring healthy snacks and pack healthy lunches throughout the holiday season so you’ll be less tempted to fill up on sweet treats that you do encounter.
  • Write thank you letters to firemen, policemen and members of the armed forces to express your gratitude for their service instead of donating baked goods.

What will you do this year to make your holiday season healthier? Share a comment with your plans!


Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu



Chieh, Helander & Wansink (2016). Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries. New England Journal of Medicine; 375:1200-1202. Available at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1602012.

Yanovski et al. (2000). A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. New England Journal of Medicine; 342: 861-867. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4336296/.

Read Full Post »



The holidays are a time for eating delicious food and spending time with friends and family. Studies show the average American gains one pound during the holiday season.  If you are on a special diet due to elevated blood pressure or high cholesterol, holiday foods can be tricky.  No one food or beverage is good or bad, but some have more health properties than others.

Review the following five holiday foods to indulge in this year (and the seven to limit consumption of) to ensure a healthy holiday season.

NICE Holiday Foods

  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Tangerines
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Nuts

Eat these lighter, nutrient rich foods more often during the holiday season. Make it a challenge to try and get the healthiest version of each dish available.

NAUGHTY Holiday Foods

  • Egg Nog
  • Pecan Pie
  • Gravy/Sauces/Dips
  • Cheese Cake
  • Fudge
  • Croissants
  • Coffee Beverages

These foods and drinks are special occasion foods to enjoy on a limited basis. Reach for these foods less often or modify the recipes to make the dishes healthier.  Choose wisely during the holidays.  Plan ahead for holiday parties, drink water prior to eating out, and eat the “naughty foods” in moderation.

Take care of yourself this holiday season, and remember that fitness, stress management and sleep also play important roles during the holidays!

Written by: Beth Stefura, RD,LD, Ohio State University, Extension Educator, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Donna Green, Ohio State University, Extension Educator, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Resources: http://www.webmd.com/doet/healthy-holidays-8/holiday-food




Read Full Post »

My Christmas Tree

Did the holiday season arrive sooner than you expected? For many people this week will be a very busy time. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or another holiday this winter, take time to establish healthy holiday traditions.

Want some ideas to help you get started?

Think Fresh! Make fresh fruits and vegetables available for snacking. If they are readily available, your family may choose vegetables and fruits over calorie-rich snacks. Have the veggies ready to go to encourage healthy snacking. Take a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana for those last-minute shopping trips. If you have a healthy snack, you may avoid the temptation to eat a high calorie fast food or rich dessert.

Move more! If you are shopping don’t worry about finding the parking space that is closest to your store, park further away and get extra steps in.

Have fun! If it is snowy, get outside and play in the snow. Play active indoor games or dance to holiday music. Take a family walk after dinner. Get up and move – make it a family tradition to take a New Year’s Day walk or Christmas Eve walk around the neighborhood to see the lights.

Give back! Encourage your family members to donate food for the food pantry, help serve at a community meal site, or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter. Adopt a family, purchase mittens and hats for the local mitten and hat tree, or ask guests to bring a food donation instead of a hostess gift at your holiday party. Food pantries often experience a shortage with an increased need over the holidays. Include your family in the giving traditions so they can experience the joy of giving to others.

Thank others! Write an annual letter to your child or your parents. If you are a parent, take the time at the end of the year to reflect on the past year including the milestones and small activities that your family enjoyed over the past year. If you have elderly parents or grandparents, take time to ask for that favorite recipe or holiday tradition. Your family member will be happy to share their ideas and you will be able to capture important information about what makes your family special. Take time to write a short “thank you” to your parent, grandparent or significant person for something they did that touched your heart or enriched your life.

Let’s Cook! Cook or bake with your family or friends. Show children how to cook or bake those special foods your family enjoys. Talk about these foods or special baked goods as you prepare them and encourage everyone to taste them.

Explore cultures! Share customs from your own heritage or enrich their lives by exposing your children to other cultures. Share information about holidays, customs and foods that others may enjoy during this time including Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanza.

What ideas can you share for establishing healthy holiday traditions?

Writer: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Beth Stefura, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, Crossroads EERA, stefura.2@osu.edu



Hardy, Bethany, 5 Meaningful Holiday Traditions for Kids available from http://www.pbs.org/parents/holidays/5-meaningful-holiday-traditions-kids/

Enjoy Foods from Many cultures available from http://choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet31EnjoyFoodsFromManyCultures.pdf

Make Healthier Holiday Choices available from http://choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet32MakeHealthierHolidayChoices.pdf


Read Full Post »

It goes without saying; the holiday season can be stressful.  During the holidays it’s even more important to take care of yourself every day!  Use these practical tips to minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays.

  •  Be physically active. How do you get daily exercise?  Remember you need a total of 30 minutes a day (walking, housework, and exercise machines – all count).  Get moving!
  • Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all.  Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.  Practice strategies to get adequate sleep and eat healthy; maintain a healthy life style.
  • Nurture yourself, take a breather.  Make some time for yourself.  Spending just 15 minutes alone without distractions may refresh you enough to handle the challenges of the day. Try a massage, a hot bath, mini-relaxations, or a quick walk to ease tension.  Be sure you’re eating right, sleeping well and laughing often.
  • Share your feelings and thoughts.  Take a break from holiday shopping and preparation to call a friend or meet them over a cup of tea.  Letting out your feelings to a supportive friend can be an invaluable and important way to relieve holiday stress or any kind of stress and anxiety.tinsle tangle
  • Laugh!  Try to find humor in everyday situations.  Laughter is a great stress reliever! Don’t let anyone dull your “sparkle”!

The key to less stressful holidays may lie in the way you perceive them.  Adjusting your attitude and your expectations can help turn an otherwise stressful holiday into an enjoyable and relaxing one.


Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress, by Charlotte Libov – WebMD retrieved 11/17/14 from http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/tips-for-reducing-holiday-stress

Relax During the Holidays, by Dr. Mercola, December 2013.  Retrieved 11/17/14 from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/23/holiday-stress-relief.aspx

Writer:  Cynthia R. Shuster, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, shuster.24@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Kristen Corry, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Noble and Monroe Counties, corry.10@osu.edu

Image search for tinsle / Compfight / A Flickr Search Tool// // //

Read Full Post »

It’s official; the holidays are here!  It’s a time for families, friends, fun; shopping, giving, cooking, eating, celebrating, decorating…and that decorating may likely include a variety of seasonal house plants.  They’re pretty, festive, colorful and traditional; they are great to enjoy ourselves or to give as gifts.

The poinsettia, everyone’s favorite holiday plant, has been falsely accused for a number of years of being poisonous, yet no deaths from this plant have ever been recorded.  In fact, research studies at The Ohio State University have proven that poinsettias present no health hazard.

Do you know which of these other holiday plants are safe?christmas flower

  •  Holly – berries are poisonous; the leaves are not.
  • Mistletoe – its white berries are poisonous.
  • Christmas cactus – is non-toxic.
  • Christmas rose – is toxic.
  • Amaryllis – is poisonous to human and animals.
  • Jerusalem cherry – Every part of this plant contains toxic substances.
  • Yew – The leaves, seeds, bark, and twigs of this evergreen can be toxic

To be on the safe side, keep holiday plants out of reach of children and pets. Remember to pick up and dispose of all leaves or berries that fall from your plant. Christmas trees are also a problem. The needles, even though they are not poisonous, are a choking hazard.

 For more details on the symptoms these plants may cause, check these websites:







Written by: Kathryn K Dodrill, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Washington County.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ross County.

Read Full Post »