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Enjoying the holiday season, one cookie at a time.

Deck the halls with lots of candy, fa la la la la, la la la la. Top my eggnog off with brandy, fa, la la la … la … that’s how the song is sung, right?

If that sounds right to you, take heed: studies suggest the average American gains more unnecessary body weight during the holiday season, between November and January, than any other time of the year!

While this may amount to only a few pounds and perhaps an extra inch on the waistline, it could have long-term detrimental effects on health.

There has to be a guilt-free way to enjoy the holiday season, right?!

We met up with School of Public Health researcher, Mark Pereira, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology and community health, to find out how we – and our scales – could make it through the holidays unscathed.

“Typically, excess caloric intake over the holiday season is associated with larger portion sizes, frequent eating and creamy, alcohol-laden drinks,” said Pereira. “The problem arises not from a couple days of overindulgence, but from the steady exposure to “fatty” food and beverages during this season. And with rich treats in abundance, passive over-consuming is nearly inevitable.”Christmas cookies

It’s pretty unfair to say, “just don’t eat the treat” when your coworker brings in cinnamon rolls…again. But instead, there are ways to tweak your lifestyle a bit to balance the added delicious – yet not so nutritious – foods that come with a holiday diet.

Pereira shared these tips:

  • Increase your level of physical activity every day
  • Look for opportunities to walk more and walk farther
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Limit the number of times you eat in a social setting
  • Spend more time standing and walking when possible, instead of sitting
  • Go shopping on a full stomach to avoid food court snacking
  • If you drink alcohol, wine may be your best bet for health

Instead of being the fun police and making you, dear reader, feel guilty about your holiday choices, I hope you now feel empowered to take on the holiday season one cookie and one lap around your office at a time.

The holiday season is a time of celebration and togetherness, which often goes hand-in-hand with eating and merriment. While eating a few holiday cookies really won’t be your undoing, it’s important to make smart holiday decisions.

Click here to watch Pereira share more holiday tips. Happy holidays!

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