How to Stay Healthy During the Holiday Season


As PNWU's only registered dietitian nutritionist, I have been tasked with demystifying how to stay healthy during this calorie-laden, often-stressful season. 

The holidays are already upon us, and November was National Diabetes Month. November and December can be incredibly challenging times of the year to maintain healthy lifestyle habits – for persons with or without diabetes. 

Foods high in calories, carbs and fat abound.

The weather works against outdoor recreation opportunities. Some people find that the work parties, family gatherings, shopping and travel increases stress, and achieving adequate quantity and quality of sleep might become more challenging. 

Making it through the holidays with your waistline intact requires more than just passing on the cookies – it also means you need to be more aware of your sedentary time. 

Sedentary activity increases during the colder and darker winter months for many Americans, especially those reliant on walking, hiking or running outdoors for fitness. Building a physical activity regimen into your daily life, which can be maintained year-round regardless of weather, is helpful to reduce the negative impact of the winter months. Trying out many of the free and low-cost online exercise videos can be a fun change of pace if you’re taking a break from the gym, or normally an outside exerciser. 

Making sure you get up from your desk and move around for 5-10 minutes each hour is also extremely important.

Use those smart phones and fit bits to set yourself a "Get Up and Move" reminder!

Reducing or minimizing the effects of chronic stress can be achieved through making smart eating choices. Choosing foods high in fiber (i.e., plant foods) and varied in colors (e.g., carrots, peppers, dark leafy greens, etc…) on a daily basis is one important step to up your antioxidant intake, which is one way we can help our bodies combat stress. 


The number of times you choose foods like fruits and vegetables is also important – a few times a week won’t cut it. You need to eat at least 5 servings of these types of foods throughout the day. One way that some people make this work is to use each meal or snack as an opportunity to eat a fruit or vegetable. For example, choose an apple, pear, banana, or berries to have as part of your first meal of the day. A tennis-ball sized round fruit counts as 1 fruit serving, and a half-banana (about 4-inches) counts as another fruit serving. Some people enjoy smoothies as their first meal of the day, which can be a very convenient way to get in multiple servings of fruits and vegetables, so I’ve provided one recipe below. 

For a mid-morning snack, have some dried berries (most dried fruit servings are ¼ Cup, or other dried fruit with some unsalted or lightly salted raw nuts (walnuts, cashews, or almonds are better choices). For lunch, have a large salad with various greens, cucumber, peppers, and purple cabbage. Add a spoonful of unsalted or lightly salted sunflower seeds, or a ¼ Cup of other nuts of your choice for a bit of crunchy heart-healthy fat and protein. One cup of packed salad greens is equal to one serving of vegetables, so most salads are at least 2 vegetable servings. For an afternoon snack, try some chopped carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers or cherry tomatoes with hummus. This would give you at least one more serving of vegetables. If you like having a dinner salad, there’s another opportunity for more vegetables. 

Lastly, if you like something sweet in the evening, try making a yogurt parfait with fresh berries. 

Maintaining a healthy body, mind and attitude can be a challenge during these darker, colder days of winter, but with some conscientious effort, you can really take your health in your own hands.

Below I've included a recipe that my family enjoys making. I recommend a Vitamix or other high-powered blender for best results.

2 Cups frozen blueberries (or other berries of your choice) 

1 frozen banana 

Thumb-sized nub of fresh or frozen ginger root, peeled and chopped 

A generous handful or two of spinach, kale or another favorite frozen vegetable (keep in mind the more green you add to a blueberry mix, the more beige your smoothie will appear – if color isn’t a big deal to you, it still tastes fantastic) 

1 cup of 100% carrot juice (you can also throw in a fresh carrot or two, but the more carrot you add, the more fibrous the smoothie will turn out) 

2-3 clementine oranges, peeled and sections into halves or quarters 

Depending on the texture you like for your smoothie, you can also add water and/or yogurt to make it thinner or creamier 

Blend at a high speed for 30-60 seconds

Kathaleen Briggs-Early (Square).jpg

Kathaleen Briggs Early 

Associate Professor of Bio. Chem/Nutrition
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences