Eat smart, play hard for a healthy holiday season

It’s almost holiday season and your stomach knows what’s coming: serving after succulent serving of grandma’s starch-stuffed turkey, snowy mountains of mashed potatoes and cinnamon-spiced pumpkin pie. If you’re worried about overdoing the delicious fare, take heart. Here are five food and fitness facts to help you have a healthy and happy holiday.

1. Turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie are actually high in nutritious content. They should be sought out at holiday feasts along with steamed broccoli, winter squash, sweet potatoes and hot chocolate (made with milk). Try to avoid foods high in empty calories (these have no nutritional content) such as fudge, pecan pie, whipped cream, cheesecake, fruitcake and holiday cookies.

2. Foods high in fiber and/or water content such as fruits, vegetables, soups and pastas are more filling than most low-fat dry snacks like pretzels, whose low moisture content makes you eat a lot before you feel full.

3. Go out dancing! Studies prove that you burn an average of 6 calories a minute on the dance floor. Do the math and you’ll burn 720 calories after two fun-filled hours with your friends at your favorite club.

4. Avoid the cold season and boost your immune system with a piping hot bowl of chili. Kidney beans are rich in vitamins and protein. The garlic and onions strengthen your lungs, protect against cancers of the digestive tract, improve heart condition and blood circulation and keep you nice and warm. Homeopathic methods use garlic and onion to prevent and treat bronchitis and even to reduce acne.

5. Looking for a fitness match on your holiday break? Check out www.sportsmatchonline.com to help you find fellow sports enthusiasts nationwide. Members are categorized by city, game, age and skill level and can communicate through e-mail anonymously until they wish to be identified.

Sources: Barbara J. Rolls, Ph.D., Penn State study. Shape magazine, December 1999. Muscular Development, December 1999. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D., and author of The Encyclopedia of Healing remedies.

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