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There’s Still Time: Start The Holidays Healthy!

Christmas holidays are right around the corner, bringing with them the annual tradition of battling holiday temptation. The festive dinner table will soon be covered with an array of bad-for-you options. Think butter mochi, pumpkin crunch, wine and beer! How can you can limit the risk of overindulgence with so much temptation right under your nose? Here are nine easy approaches that can redefine the holidays as a time of family, friends and fun – not of frustration and guilt.

1. Exercise more than you do now. This option is so obvious and yet we sometimes forget to do it! If you don’t exercise at all, just start doing something. If you already practice some physical exertion, do more. Add a flight of stairs to your route, 10 minutes to your cardio workout, or another lap around the block to the dog’s evening walk.

2. Start eating breakfast. Studies from the American Journal of Epidemiology show that breakfast shirkers are not just overweight, but obese. Research also suggests that those who eat within two hours of waking up are more likely to have stable insulin and blood sugar levels, and a more active metabolism. So try to incorporate a healthy breakfast every day.

3. Swap out one unhealthy habit for a healthy one. Trade sugary pop and juice for water. Make Wednesday “Salad Day” and let greens be the star of your plate. Or, pledge to unwind with a walk in the evening instead of flopping in front of one of your favourite shows. (Besides, you can always DVR it for post-walk viewing.)

4. Eat whole grains every day. Whether it’s wheat, oats, rice, barley or quinoa, whole grains contain key nutrients — such as antioxidants and disease-fighting phytochemicals — in greater amounts than fruits and vegetables. Small changes make the difference: opt for whole-grain toast, full-fiber breakfast cereals, and use whole-grain noodles for your pasta dishes.

5. Manage your stress. Whether it’s taking a yoga class, practicing mindfulness, or turning off the technology, be aware that your stress levels may rise during the holidays. Pick a time every day to do activities that minimize stress, such as spending time outdoors, meditating, or even playing board games. Stress contributes to weight gain, so engineer some quality relaxation time every day.

6. Sleep more. Slumber is about more than just killing time between the evening news and breakfast. It’s a critical period for the human body to renew itself physically and mentally In the longer term, multiple studies draw a connection between insufficient sleep and such serious health problems as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Be conscious of how many late nights you stay up wrapping, stamping out cookies, or cocktail party hopping ¬– and make sure sufficient sleep is a top priority.

7. Practice gratitude. There’s not much that’s higher on the list of healthy habits than feeling appreciation for the joys in life. This habit is a wonder to introduce: once a day, just slow down (maybe on your commute, or while cooking supper) and focus on those things and those people that you are grateful for; it can positively affect your well-being.

8. Stand up to work. Ideally, you could trade in your conventional desk for a “walking desk” or a “standing desk”. If that’s not possible, try to stand up, walk around or stretch hourly. For example, a common practice is to stand while you’re on the phone. Or when brainstorming, you can pace a long room with a white board at one end, and jot your ideas on it as they occur to you.

9. Floss daily (twice, if you can!). A New York University study conducted in 2008 linked the disease-causing bacteria that non-flossers have in such abundance in their mouths with inflamed arteries, a major risk factor for heart disease.

The approaching holiday season should be a time of happiness and gratitude — not worry and guilt. Adopting this preventive approach to your health can be as easy as a stroll across the beach.