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Five tips to stay healthy during the holidays

Heading for the fruit platter after your first piece of pecan pie will keep your pants fitting through the new year.

Heading for the fruit platter after your first piece of pecan pie will keep your pants fitting through the new year.

Holidays are a time when we load up on sweets and stress piles on. So long healthy habits! But you can still enjoy holiday treats and stay healthy too. I know what you’re thinking...who the heck wants to be healthy during the holidays?! (At least that’s the look our NolaVie team gave me when I mentioned this idea at an editorial meeting.) I don’t blame you. I’d like to go all out on pralines and spiked cider too. But this holiday season, I’m making a conscious effort to enjoy everything in moderation, and I invite you to join me.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up all the good stuff. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy and in the spirit of the holidays this year:

Watch your sugar. Some doctors believe that one of the reasons many people get sick around the holidays is due  to a drastic increase in our sugar intake. Sugar competes with Vitamin C to get into the white blood cells and fight infections and free radicals. The more sugar we consume, the less our immune systems are able to fight off infection. Excessive sugar consumption also promotes the growth of bacteria, making way for infection in the body. Combine that with little sleep plus the stress of the holidays, and it’s easy to get sick. Help your body stay strong and healthy by cutting back on the pralines and pecan pie (just a little); head towards the ever-present party fruit platter or opting for a fresh piece of seasonal produce (think persimmons, satsumas, pomegranates -- no, fruitcake doesn't count) at home.

Go easy on the alcohol. Since I manage a health condition, I have to be cautious about drinking alcohol, but ahhh, I do love a good cocktail! If you do too, yet you still want to drink in moderation, have one of your favorite drinks to start, and then opt for a cranberry juice or soda water with a splash of cranberry as an alternative.

Lately, I opt for a soda with lemon juice and muddled mint, like a mock mojito. I’ve also recently gotten into the habit of ordering a glass of wine, instead of liquor. I find a glass of wine is much easier on my body the next day than a couple of cocktails are. Instead of reaching for that sazerac, try whipping up this easily prepared, refreshing virgin mojito. You'll thank yourself in the morning.

Take a minute to be mindful. With family demands -- so much to do and so little time -- the holidays can get stressful, fast! It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. But don’t let the best moments pass you by. When you start to feel overwhelmed, step back for a minute, take a deep breath, and be mindful of where you are.

Count your blessings --literally. Run through a list in your head of all the things you are grateful for at that very moment in time. Gratitude is a good way to bring you back to earth and help you appreciate all the goodness you have in your life.

Have a method to the madness. Nothing is worse than realizing there’s one week left until Christmas and you only have one weekend left to do ALL of your holiday shopping. Try taking a few minutes to sit down with a calendar at the beginning of December (or before if you’re really good!) and divide and conquer. Choose a few people from your list and spread your shopping trips out over a few days. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed out at the last minute. But if the time gets away from you (like it always does for me) just remember to take a few deep breathes before you attack that long list of holiday to-do’s!

Bring a healthy treat to potlucks and parties. The holidays are filled with potlucks and parties jam packed with delicious food, but they’re not always nutritious. This year, try something different -- bring a dish, such as homemade hummus, that balances out all the other (cheesy, meaty, greasy) offerings. It’s my go-to recipe. It’s healthy (a great source of protein) and super easy to make. It takes 30 minutes--tops. Dip with veggies or pita, and you’ve got a healthy and delicious meal that’s sure to be a hit at any party. Try this recipe.

Summer Suleiman is a health writer and blogger who writes about her experience living healthy (or trying to) in a city best known for its fabulous (unhealthy) food and debauchery. You can read about her journey saying no to po’boys and Sazeracs, and yes to kale and juicing, at www.HealthySummer.me or on Twitter @summersuleiman.