1 AnswerDuring the holidays it can be tempting to forgo your usual diet and exercise routine, but there are ways to maintain your weight without putting a damper on the festivities. Start by weighing yourself once or twice a week. Studies show that people who weigh themselves regularly are better able to maintain their weight. By stepping on the scale you'll notice as soon as a few pounds start creeping up on you and you can make a changes to lose them right away. Weigh yourself in the morning after you wake up and before you've eaten breakfast.
If you don't want to restrict eating during the holidays, exercise longer and harder than usual. If you typically do 30 minutes of cardio, increase it to 45 minutes. When you lift weights, add more reps or choose heavier weights. If you exercise three times a week, increase it to five.
1 AnswerContrary to a long-held myth, poinsettias pose little health risk to young children. However, other plants can be harmful. Don't decorate with these holiday plants if you have little kids (or pets):
- Mistletoe (highly toxic white berries)
- Holly (highly toxic red berries)
- Bittersweet (often used in wreaths and floral arrangements, but the entire plant is poisonous)
- Boxwood (often used in wreaths and swags; twigs and leaves are toxic)
- Pine (ingesting large amounts can be toxic and handling pine may cause skin irritation)
- Jerusalem cherry (commonly used for Christmas decorations; berries are highly toxic)
1 AnswerTo safely use decorative lights:
- Use only lights that have been tested for safety. Make sure they have a label from an independent testing laboratory.
- Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard or repair damaged sets.
- Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Newer LED lights allow more strands to be strung together, up to 216 total watts on one 15-amp circuit.
- Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights can short and start a fire.
- Keep "bubbling" lights away from children. The bright colors and bubbling movement can tempt children to play with them; if they break, children can be cut or harmed by drinking the liquid.
1 AnswerTo stay safe around the Christmas tree this season:
- Make sure artificial trees and greenery are fire-resistant.
- Live trees should be fresh when you put them up. Check needles to make sure they bend rather than break, and that they don't easily fall off tree limbs.
- Cut off about two inches of the trunk before you place it in a sturdy, water-holding stand. Keep the stand filled with water.
- Don't set up your Christmas trees (or other greenery) near a fireplace, radiator or other heat source. It will dry out faster and become a fire hazard.
- Place the tree where young children can't get to it easily. If you have a crawling baby, consider using a tabletop tree that your little one can't reach, or surround the tree with baby gates.
- Anchor the tree to prevent children or pets from knocking it over.
- Hang breakable or sharp ornaments or those with small removable parts on high branches, out of reach of small children or pets.
- If small children are around, don't use trimmings that resemble candy or food, which they may be tempted to eat.
- Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant tree trimmings.
- Avoid decorations that may have lead in them.
- Dispose of trees and greenery when they start drying out.
1 AnswerDuring the holidays, a brisk daily walk or bike ride may keep stress in check. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five, and preferably all, days of the week will help you stay healthy. If you want to keep your weight stable through the holidays, up your activity to 60 to 90 minutes most days of the week.
1 AnswerDuring the holidays, women often feel pressure to plan, shop, cook, decorate and coordinate seasonal rituals, gifts, mailings and parties. They try to do too much for too many people in too little time. The holidays may also stir up sad feelings by bringing on memories of losses -- of loved ones, friends, homes, relationships, health, jobs.
Women in particular should try to avoid holiday stress. Women suffer stress-induced depression more often than men and are more likely to experience depression from seasonal affective disorder caused by reduced daylight. Research also shows that death rates from both cardiac and noncardiac causes peak across the United States in December and January, regardless of climate. Holiday stress is one reason why.
1 AnswerWe naturally gravitate toward sweet because we have more sweet taste buds. But our tongues can be "fooled" into finding similar pleasure in sugar alternatives that mimic the sweetness we like so much. Here are some ways to cut sugar from holiday recipes:
- Vanilla and peppermint extracts bring out sweetness.
- Use spices such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and mint, instead of added sugar, in vegetable dishes, sauces and baked goods.
- Highlight the natural taste of sweet potatoes with cinnamon and vanilla. Avoid canned ones that are packed in syrup. If you must have marshmallows on top, use the mini-type, space them apart and let them bake only briefly before serving (they melt faster than big marshmallows).
1 AnswerWhile tradition plays a big role in most holiday dishes, no one says you have to stick to the same recipes time after time. You can cut calories from holiday meals by making simple alterations. Add Greek yogurt to dips to keep them creamy with less fat or use applesauce or bananas to replace butter in baked goods. Keep meats lean by removing the skin and substitute broth for water to add extra flavor wherever you can. As always, try to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables into the meal as possible. Turn alcoholic beverages into spritzers by adding sparkling water or club soda and opt for reduced-calorie beers, wines and liquors when you can.
1 AnswerThe temperature at which food is kept determines how long it can sit out. Foods can go bad without looking, smelling or tasting different, so use these guidelines before eating something that's been sitting out:
- Eat foods that should be eaten hot when they're hot -- ideally, this means above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure that the food at least feels hot to the touch.
- Eat cold foods cold: shrimp cocktail, raw shellfish and dip must be eaten cold. Steer clear if they're at room temperature.
- Don't eat any refrigerated or heated food that has been sitting out for over two hours. Munch on nuts, crackers and other foods that don't spoil (finally, a legitimate health reason to have some M&Ms!).