Remember food, fitness safety during the holidays

Lisa Franzen-Castle

During the holiday season, eating healthy and staying active can seem downright impossible. Between holiday shopping, family and work, and occasional lack of sleep, it can be hard to resist the temptation to indulge in favorite holiday foods.
This holiday season, pay special attention to your health and give the gift of health and safety to yourself and others by following these holiday food and fitness tips.
Holiday Food —

  • Buffets and food safety. A popular way to celebrate holidays is to invite friends and family to a buffet. However, foods left out for long periods leave the door open for uninvited guests —bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Remember the two-hour rule; foods sitting out for two hours or more should be discarded.
  • Avoid overeating. Don’t go to holiday meals or parties on an empty stomach; eat a meal or have a light snack beforehand. Reduce your portion sizes and take smaller amounts of favorite foods.
  • Healthy substitutions. When the recipe calls for seasoning salt try using herb only seasoning, such as garlic powder, celery seed, onion flakes, or finely chopped herbs garlic, celery, or onions. Top green bean casserole with whole wheat baked chips or use whole wheat bread to make stuffing, and give salads more color by substituting spinach for lettuce and adding more vegetables.
  • Slow down to slim down. Did you know it takes about 20 minutes after food enters our mouths before the brain starts to perceive we’re getting full? Slow down at the dinner table this holiday season to slim down. Take time to sit and savor the holiday food flavors. Listen to your stomach and stop eating when you’re full.

Holiday Fitness —

  • Dress in layers. Unfortunately, cold weather can discourage even the most motivated exercisers. But, cold weather doesn’t have to spell the end of exercise. Exercise generates heat so dress in layers that can be removed when you sweat and put back on as needed. You may need to experiment before you find a combination that works well for you based on your exercise intensity.
  • Watch out for frostbite. Don’t let cold weather put a halt on physical activity. Keep hands, feet, and ears warm by wearing a thin pair of gloves under a heavier pair lined with wool or fleece, getting exercise shoes a half- or one size larger to allow for thicker, thermal socks or an extra pair of regular socks, and wear a hat or headband to protect your ears.
  • Pay attention to the forecast. The forecast can help you stay safe and warm when exercising in cold weather. Wind chill extremes can make exercising outdoors unsafe even if you dress warmly. Wind can penetrate clothing and remove the insulating layer of warm air surrounding your body, and exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite. In extreme temperatures, choose an indoor activity to supplement your workouts.
    This holiday season concentrate on socializing, making new acquaintances, and having fun. Spend time with relatives or catching up with old friends. Think about what you are celebrating, not just about how great the food is!
    Schedule time for physical activity this holiday season and aim for 30 minutes on most days. Check out for more food, nutrition, and health information.
    Franzen-Castle is an extenstion nutrition specialist at UNL Panhandle Research & Extension Center. The Panhandle Research and Extension Center is on the World Wide Web at

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