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Take care of your health during the holidays

ELIZABETHTOWN Holidays may be happy times, but they can also be trying. Its important to step back and remember to take care of your health to fully enjoy the season. Avoiding weight gain, flu
Essex County Department of Public Health Executive Director Kathy Abernethy said the most well-known risk during the season was contracting the flu. With regard to the flu, we encourage everyone to get a flu shot because it helps lesson illness, said Abernethy. The best prevention is to continue thorough handwashing. She added that if you did catch the flu, stay home. Recovery will be faster, and it won't be spread to friends and coworkers. Another risk is overindulgence with the foods of the season. Certainly during the season, there's so much good food out there we tend to overeat. It's a time of celebration, with family and friends, so trying to limit ourselves is hard, said Abernethy. While the food may be welcome, people may end up with an unwanted present by gaining extra holiday pounds which aren't easily shed. Abernethy recommended replacing the food with healthier alternative. While at a gathering, an easy trick is to avoid standing next to the buffet to avoid overeating. Get your plate and move away, said Abernethy. For chefs preparing holidays delicacies, it's important to consider food safety. Abernethy said that while preparing food, cross-contamination can happen. When working with raw meat, poultry and seafood, avoid using the same cutting board to later prepare vegetables. Reach out to those in need
William Sullivan, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Essex County located in Westport, said the holidays can be a hard time. While many people do better because of the presence of family, others may feel isolated. There are those people who are feeling very much excluded from family - and those individuals at particular risk, said Sullivan. Sullivan said one of the most effective methods to help out was to be present with the present who is considering suicide. When dealing with the family member or community member who's out of sorts, the best thing we can do is be present and patient while dealing with them, said Sullivan. MHA has a hopeline available 24-hours a day by calling 800-440-8074. MHA also offers assessments, peer companions and has a respite apartment available. Being careful and staying safe
Abernethy said there were increased instances of falls, usually incurred while decorating. People should use proper stepstools and ladders to avoid taking a tumble. To avoid fire hazards when setting up Christmas trees , check the lights to make sure theres no frayed wires. Live trees need to be watered frequently, sometimes even twice a day. Purchasing toys should also be a thoughtful consideration. Make sure if you're buying a toy for a child that is age-appropriate in terms of choking and little pieces that could break off for the very young, said Abernethy. Abernethy also wanted to remind people to take care with snow shoveling. She advised people take time to do regular exercise to keep from getting hurt. Often we don't do certain exercise, and that can lead not only to sprains, but lead to other exertion and related problems, said Abernethy. Here are some tips for cutting down the 'fat' and calories for the holidays.
Try to accommodate for the 'extra' calories. Eat a low-fat, high fiber breakfast and lunch if you're going to have a festive holiday dinner. Plan around your high calorie meals and 'save' calories. Be creative in your activities. How about walking around the block to see the beautiful lights in the neighborhood? Roast your meats on a rack so the grease and juices drip away from the meat and do not get absorbed into them as fat. Skim the fat from gravy. The flavor will still be there but the calories and fat will not. Use low-fat yogurt or sour cream for dips. Be creative with the spices. When mashing potatoes, skip the butter and mash them with low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth or skim milk. Put only half of the required sugar in your pies or chose pies that have less fat and calories. For example, a piece of low sugar or sugar free apple pie versus a piece of pecan pie. Still get to enjoy the pie but with many less calories and fat. Use two egg whites instead of a whole egg. No change in texture or richness of the baked good. Serve raw vegetables, or steam vegetables instead of high fat dips or creamed sauces. Cut out the high calorie alcoholic drinks and change to healthier fruit drinks. Instead of egg nog with rum (about 150 calories) why not try a non-alcoholic egg nog drink made with skimmed milk. Try a baked potato instead of mashed potatoes or candied yams. A nice change of pace which your family may enjoy. Serve low fat snacks such as pretzels instead of potato chips. Look for alternatives to the high transfat and high saturated fats in chips. Increase fruits and fiber in your recipes. Use whole grains, more fiber, and less fat in baking. Use non-stick spray instead of buttering a pan. Use olive oil instead of butter or margarine. Have someone else be your 'taster' when you cook so you don't accumulate all of the calories from your cooking.

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