ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- With the holiday season rapidly approaching, many individuals have already begun planning their menus and activities. But Army Public Health experts say the goal is to keep the synergy of the Performance Triad (Sleep, Activity and Nutrition) in your planning and hopefully avoid that seemingly inevitable New Year's resolution to revive healthier habits.
"During the busy holidays, it can be difficult to keep the right balance of sleep, activity and nutrition going," said Joanna Reagan, Army Public Health Center registered dietitian.
Reagan has some creative ideas to help. She recommends trying new recipes. There are many creative recipes on the internet and in cook books for festive holiday eating. She says it is worth a little bit of time searching to get some creative ideas for the holiday work potluck or the church dinner.
"Try an Iron Chef theme for the holiday party with the twist of incorporating winter vegetables or fruits in the dish," said Reagan. "Try incorporating winter vegetables into different recipes such as squash, sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower. Winter fruits in season are grapefruit, kiwifruit, kumquats, mandarin oranges, oranges, persimmons and pomelos."
Reagan also recommends trying some of the Performance Triad recipes found on cookpad.com at https://cookpad.com/us/users/2940124.
Reagan says another P3 strategy is consider giving the gift of a new kitchen gadget to promote health. Some ideas might be:
• Vegetable spiralizer to turn zucchini into spaghetti noodles.
• Fresh herb saver to preserve herbs in your refrigerator for longer time periods.
• A sparkling water maker may help with drinking more water with bit of flavor and fizz.
• A salad spinner can help you make the perfect salad.
• Digital food thermometer with an all-in-one option good for candy and meats.
• Programmable pressure cooker to help make quick fast meals.
Reagan says another healthy strategy during the holidays is to weigh yourself every day.
"This will give you a pulse check of your weight status," said Reagan "The goal over the holidays is usually to maintain your weight and try not to gain weight. If you see the scale sliding up, then it is time to try getting back on track."
One trick is to count your bites, said Reagan. An average bite is about 60 calories and five bites can be up to 300 calories, which is about half of the calories of a lunch meal. Use a small plate and remember to eat slowly.
Although it may be getting colder outside, Reagan says it's important to stay active.
"The holidays are always a busy time and exercise is the first thing to go with the busy schedule," said Reagan. "As the weather is getting colder, it is hard to get motivated to go outside."
Reagan recommends investing in warm clothing and layering clothes for outdoor activities to help stay warm and dry. A reflective vest will also help to be seen in the dark.
"Sign up for a new exercise class in your local community," said Reagan. "The accountability of your classmates will help to keep you motivated."
Another way to help reduce holiday stress is to keep a normal sleep schedule, a critical part of the Performance Triad.
"Try to keep to your normal sleep routine as much as possible," said Lt. Col. Vincent Capaldi, sleep medicine consultant to the U.S. Army Surgeon General. "Stay consistent to reinforce your sleep-wake cycle. If you have an evening holiday party to attend and you plan to stay up late, try to keep your wake up time the same, even if you feel tired the next day."
Capaldi also suggests avoiding alcohol and caffeine four hours before bedtime.
"Alcohol is a depressant that you may think helps you to fall asleep, but it actually disrupts the sleep cycle," said Capaldi.
Capaldi says progressive relaxation techniques and winding down before bedtime can also help decrease the stress of the holidays.
Holiday season means holiday parties, and Reagan offers some suggestions for drinking responsibly.
"Alternate water with your alcoholic drink to help to stay hydrated but also drink less alcohol," said Reagan "For many social events it feels natural to have a beverage in your hand, so you can also add extra ice cubes to your drink to dilute your beverage. Practice moderation and sip slowly. Alcohol may increase appetite and lead to eating more."
Reagan recommends involving family and friends with healthy holiday goals.
"Express yourself," said Reagan "It's alright to tell your family of your goals during the holiday season, so they can help to support you. You can pass up on cookies or goodies and even some activities if they complicate your busy schedule. It is ok to say 'no' to events if they will add stress to your life."
Reagan's last tip is to use time-saving technology to help reduce stress. A number of grocery stores now offer pick-up and delivery services and there are also organizations that offer local fruits and vegetables for pick-up or delivery.
As you are writing out your holiday lists, remember to keep the synergy of Performance Triad during this holiday season. The support of family and friends can help to make sure you have the balance of sleep, activity and nutrition. It is important to make the right choices for you and finish strong for the New Year.
For more information, go to https://p3.amedd.army.mil/.
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through population-based monitoring, investigations, and technical consultations.