Healthy & 'Wise' Holiday Calendar: 31 Tips for Better Health This December

Healthy & ‘Wise’ Holiday Calendar: 31 Tips for Better Health This December

Posted on: November 30, 2015

There are 31 days in December. This year, try something new — and good for you — on every one of them with the Healthy & “Wise” Holiday Calendar from Mercy’s own Kathy Wise, registered dietitian nutritionist and director of employee health and wellness.

Healthy & wise holiday calendar for 2015 from Mercy in Canton, Ohio

Print out a copy of this calendar for easy reference every day! Click HERE >>

December 1: a ‘Light’ Walk
Start your month off by planning evening walks in your neighborhood to look at all the holiday lights. It is a fun way to start the holiday season and get some great exercise! For safety, be sure to wear some reflective gear and carry a flashlight.

December 2: Hand Hygiene
Limit your exposer to colds and flu by washing your hands often and carrying some hand sanitizer to use after touching shopping carts, door handles and restaurant menus.

December 3: Vitamin C
Start your day with dose of vitamin C to boost your immune system. Try a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice or a whole orange.

December 4: Omega-3’s
Shorter days and limited sunshine can bring on the winter blues. Combat the blues by adding foods high in Omega-3-fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds.

December 5: Outdoor Fun
Take to the slopes when the snow hits! Whether sledding, skiing or snowboarding, you just can’t beat these winter activities for great fun and exercise for the entire family.

December 6: Healthier Cookies
Make holiday cookies and breads a little healthier by adding some dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, figs and dates. Add in some chopped nuts for some heart-healthy fats and great flavor.

December 7: Homemade Vegetable Soup + Cheese
Today is a good day for a bowl of homemade vegetable soup, a chunk of crusty bread and an ounce of sharp cheese. Cheese contains a host of nutrients like calcium, protein, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12. Plus, it adds great flavor to a meal. As with many foods, just use appropriate portion sizes.

December 8: Greek Yogurt
Start today with a cup of Greek yogurt and a sliced banana drizzled with a little honey and topped with some chopped walnuts or almonds.   

December 9: Take Veggies to Work
Celebrate a healthy holiday at work by bringing a tray of raw vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrot sticks, celery, grape tomatoes, cucumber and zucchini slices with a low-fat dip or dressing. Decorate the tray with sprigs of dill and cranberries for a festive appearance.

December 10: Oatmeal
Warm up with a bowl of oatmeal made with low-fat milk for added protein, a sliced banana for some potassium, a few walnuts, and a pinch of brown sugar and cinnamon for a delicious, nutritious start of your day.

Related: 5 Comfort Foods to Keep You Warm AND Healthy

December 11: Meal Plan
Plan some easy, healthier dinners to avoid grabbing less healthy options. A crock pot may turn out to be your best friend during this busy holiday season. Remember: start lean to stay lean by purchasing lean cuts of meat, such as “loin” and “round cuts” with “choice” and “select” grades as the best meat options. Don’t forget about meatless choices like three bean chili or vegetable stew.

December 12: Stock Up on Healthy Snacks
Prevent yourself from getting over hungry. Stocking your kitchen with fresh fruit, nuts, vegetable crudités, low fat cheese, yogurt and protein bars will allow you to grab a healthy snack before heading out the door to go shopping, attend the kids Christmas musical or a party.

December 13: Boost Energy with Exercise
Need a little more energy today? Get some exercise. Studies show that fatigue along with mood improved after a single, 30-minute workout of moderate intensity.

December 14: Hot Chocolate
Warm up your morning or wind down your day with a cup of hot chocolate made with real milk and dark chocolate. Cocoa contains flavonoids, which are compounds produced by plants that researchers believe may help the body fight against free radicals that can damage cells. There is some evidence that flavonoids reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing blood pressure and improving blood vessels. 

December 15: Cold-Weather Gift Requests
Only ten days left until Christmas, which is a good time to add some cold-weather exercise gear (mittens, headbands, warm socks, etc.) to the stocking stuffer list.

December 16: Gifts to Encourage Walking
Purchase some gifts with health in mind that encourage walking, such as a family season pass to a zoo, museum, pool or a nearby theme park. Staying active all year long makes exercise fun.

December 17: Relaxation
Relax. You deserve it. It’s good for you, and it takes less time than you think. Sit quietly in a comfortable position, close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose slowly. Notice how the air fills your lungs and your chest rises with the breath. Then, slowly release the breath through your nose and be mindful of the air expelling through your nostrils. Imagine your stress leaving with each breath. Do this at least five times. You should feel a little more relaxed. If not, repeat the process.

December 18: Tea Time
Take time for a cup of tea with a friend. Drinking black tea may help you recover from stressful events more quickly. One study compared people who drank four cups of tea daily for six weeks with people who drank another beverage. The tea drinkers reported feeling calmer and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after stressful situations.

December 19: Sleep Better
Sleep is imperative to good physical and mental health. With so much to do, you may be tempted to stay up late to get it all done. Going to bed at 11 pm during the week and then staying up until 2 am on the weekends wreaks havoc on your body and mind. Try going to bed and getting up at consistent times.

December 20: Avacados
Don’t let stress ruin your health this holiday. One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to get enough potassium, and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. A little bit of mashed avocado on a slice of whole grain toast topped with some fresh salsa makes a great snack and a good choice when stress has you craving a high-fat treat. Avocados are high in fat and calories, though, so watch your portion size.

December 21: Exercise Inside
Cold snowy days don’t need to interfere with your activity level. Put on some of your favorite music and dance or try that exercise DVD you got last Christmas. Don’t have a lot of time? Don’t worry. Break up your activity into three, high-intensity (7 to 10 minute) sessions to boost your metabolism.

December 22: Nibble in Moderation
Avoid holiday heartburn and indigestion by nibbling. Enjoy your favorite foods but in moderation. No need to heap on the goodies (or go back for seconds and thirds)! Overeating makes acid reflux much more likely, leading to major heartburn and discomfort.

December 23: Munch Raw Veggies
Raw vegetables can do more than control your calories. Crunchy raw vegetables can help ease stress in a purely mechanical way. Munching celery or carrot sticks helps release a clenched jaw which helps ward off tension. Work on having several servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Aim for eight to 10 servings daily!

December 24: Cherry Juice for Sleep
You may have heard that Santa has a nose like a cherry, but did you know that a glass of cherry juice could make you fall asleep faster, according to researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Rochester? Cherries, particularly tart cherries, naturally boost levels of melatonin. In the study, subjects who drank cherry juice experienced some improvement in their insomnia symptoms compared to those who drank a placebo beverage.

December 25: Merry Food Safety Christmas!
Eggnog helps put the merry in Christmas. It is only available at this time of the year. It can be purchased almost everywhere, but for some it is a holiday tradition to make their own. For food safety and to avoid illness, make sure you use pasteurized shell eggs, powdered egg whites, or frozen or liquid, pasteurized egg products. Also, keep your portion size in mind. An eight-ounce glass of eggnog has about 350 calories.

December 26: Almonds
Boost your immune system with almonds. They are full of helpful vitamins, such as vitamin E to bolster the immune system and B vitamins, which may make you more resilient during bouts of stress or depression. To get the benefits, snack on a quarter of a cup every day.

December 27: Eat Slowly & Savor
Eat slowly, savor the flavor and enjoy the food and, if applicable, the company.

December 28: Prevent Cold Sores
Stop a cold sore before it starts. If you find you’re prone to cold sores (also called fever blisters) during the hectic holiday season, you may be your own worst enemy. It is suspected that lack of sleep, too much alcohol or sugar, stress, and close physical contact all contribute to outbreaks. So watch your diet, exercise to reduce stress and give more hugs and less kisses to family and friends.

December 29: Plan for Exercise
Plan your workout routine today. You may not feel like working out today, but you need to make a plan for tomorrow. If you plan on exercising at the beginning of your day, put your exercise clothes at the side of your bed. Slip into them as soon as your feet hit the floor and don’t take them off until you’ve exercised.

Exercising at lunch or the end of the day? Pack your exercise clothes in your workout bag the night before and place the bag in your car so there is no excuse for not exercising as planned. If you are not in the mood or feel too tired, that is fine, but still put on your exercise clothes and hit the gym. Chances are good that once you’re dressed, you’re also motivated and ready to go!

December 30: Fitness Apps
If you have a smartphone, download a fitness app. There are a ton of them out there. Try to find one your friends or co-workers are using and partner with them. It is amazing how logging you activity and having a fitness pal keeps you motivated to achieve your daily goals.

December 31: Start to Slowly Cut Calories
Make a plan to drop those added pounds you accumulated over the past year. Start slow. If you cut out as little as 200 calories a day, every day, you’ll see slow (and easy) weight loss. Skipping the evening dessert, the second slice of buttered bread, or the afternoon can of soda may be all that is needed.


SOURCES:

American Council on Exercise. Exercise Can Help Control Stress.

Cleveland Clinic. The Power of Fish.

Colorado State University Extension. Diet and Hypertension.

EatRight.org. Good Mood Foods to Fight Winter Blues.

Gebauer, S. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2008.

Kansas State University. Stress and Nutrition.

National Sleep Foundation. Food and Sleep.

Psychology Today. Vitamin C: Stress Buster. April 25, 2003.

The American Institute of Stress. Effects of Stress.

Benzie IF, Choi SW. Antioxidants in food. Adv. Food Nutr. Res. 2014

Kozlowska A, Szostak-Wegierek D. Flavonoids–food sources and health benefits. 2014

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