Plan for happy, healthy holidays!

December 2, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – When you’re shopping for holiday gifts this year, think about planning celebrations and choosing presents that will promote better health, a University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator advises.

“When you make your holiday list, think about the long-term effects of your gifts and celebrations. Remember, small changes accumulate and turn into big results over time,” Mary Liz Wright said.

Why give a gift that promotes good health? Because you want your friends and relatives to live long, productive lives. Who would benefit from a healthy gift? Just about anyone, she said.

“To be frank, we are a nation on the verge of a health disaster,” said Wright. “Sixty-one percent of Illinoisans are overweight or obese, and 8.5 percent have diabetes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in our state.”

If you have young children on your list, consider an outdoor active game instead of the usual electronic gadget. For teens, consider a cool fitness tracker app or wearable device, she said.

And, for those on your list who are a little more mature, there are many healthful gift options, including a yoga app or DVD or a healthy recipe cookbook, she added.

“At your holiday gathering, include some sort of activity on the agenda. It could be as elaborate as a digital scavenger hunt—in which teams have to run around taking pictures of items on a list—to something as simple as charades, with its active miming. How about organizing a competition with a few “Minute to Win It” challenges? Really, anything is better than napping on the couch!” she said.

Now let’s discuss menu---do you really need five kinds of dessert? Could you substitute a fruit salad for one of the more traditional fat-laden items? Could you alter one of your dessert recipes to make it just a bit healthier?

“Remember, you can usually substitute fat-free dairy and reduce both salt and sugar by a third without anyone noticing the difference,” Wright said. “What about those holiday salads? Many of them have more fat and calories than some desserts!”

Try this recipe for a colorful and healthy alternative to the mayonnaise/ whipped cream /gelatin dishes masquerading as salads, she suggested.

Red and Green Holiday Slaw

5 cups shredded red cabbage

½ cup dried cranberries or cherries

2 large Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced

1/3 cup walnuts


¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

3 Tbsp. olive oil

Mix slaw ingredients in large bowl. Mix dressing ingredients and pour over slaw. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Makes 16 servings

Nutrition facts per serving:

80 calories, 4.5 g fat (0 g trans fat and cholesterol), 10.0 mg sodium, 11 g  total carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugars, 1 g protein.


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