How to have a healthy holiday: The key is balance​

WUSTL obesity prevention experts offer tips to navigate the holidays


There’s nothing wrong with a cookie or a glass of eggnog at the holidays, says Debra Haire-Joshu, PhD, director of the Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research and the Center for Diabetes Translation Research at Washington University in St. Louis and associate dean for research at the Brown School.

The key, Haire-Joshu says, is balance.

“The holidays are a great time of the year – time spent with family and friends – and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t enjoy them,” Haire-Joshu says. “But the key is to balance those treats with healthy habits and choices.

“Drink more water. Reduce portions. Limit TV viewing and keep moving. All these things can add balance and ensure that 2012 is the year of the healthy holiday,” she says.

Haire-Joshu and her colleague, Cindy Schwarz, research coordinator at the Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research, offer specific tips that can make a healthy holiday happen:

  • Improve your environment Use smaller dishes; travel with a water bottle and order water when eating out; cut up produce as soon as its purchased; put healthy food in easy reach in cabinets and refrigerators; move unhealthy items out of sight.
  • Choose healthier options Replace sweetened beverages with water; pre-package fruits and vegetables for snacks; reduce portion sizes.
  • Move, move, move Reduce screen time — television and computer; walk regularly throughout the day; find places in your workplace to be active.
  • Plan your party Move away from the food table and remove the temptation to eat; bring a healthy item to potluck functions; grab a small plate and reduce portion size; go easy on the alcohol.

“There’s that old saying, ‘It’s not what you do in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas that’s as important as what you do in the months between Christmas and Thanksgiving,’ ” Haire-Joshu says.

“Balance is the key every month of the year.”