Special to Iredell Free News

Even though the holiday season can bring stress, Iredell Health System is encouraging community members to follow simple tips, provided by registered dietitian Amanda Downs, that will help make the holidays enjoyable without compromising nutrition.

These tips can also help you stay healthy and relieve holiday-induced stress:

Tip #1: Don’t let food stress you out

Enjoy the holidays and the special foods of the season. The holidays are not a great time to set weight loss goals. Instead, focus on weight maintenance.

“We have enough stressors in life, food does not need to be another,” Downs said. “That said, if you’ve been maintaining healthy nutrition habits, keep that rolling! Consider making new dishes; trying different ingredients; or using less butter, sugar, or salt to make traditional recipes lighter.”

Don’t miss a nutritious meal twice in a row. For example, begin your day with a veggie omelet or simple smoothie with protein. After a midday meal higher in portions or calories, avoid repeating that meal for dinner; get back on track without depriving your body of nutritional needs.

And, don’t go long hours without eating.

“We tend to make up for it later when we finally sit down to eat,” Downs said.

Tip #2: Stay hydrated

Aim to drink at least 48-64 ounces of water daily by keeping a water bottle with you everywhere – in the car, at your desk, next to your bed – as a reminder to keep sipping throughout the day.

“Every cell and tissue in our bodies requires adequate hydration, but most of us are poorly hydrated throughout the day,” Downs said. “That can potentially lead to us feeling tired and worn down during the busyness of the holidays.”

Calories from sugary drinks add up quickly, so steer clear of soda, sweet tea, and alcohol as much as possible.

“Our bodies don’t know the difference between liquid calories or solid calories, only how to store them if they get too many.”

Tip #3: Don’t let leftovers linger

One meal or even one day of being off track of your nutrition habits is not problematic. But when that day becomes a week, then two weeks, then a month – we can find ourselves struggling to get back on track.

“So, prepare those favorite once-a-year recipes, but scale down the recipe size so the leftovers aren’t lingering. Offer to send leftovers home with family members or freeze them for later.”

Tip #4: Have a daily “oxygen cocktail”

Get outside, sneak in some short walks, and get some vitamin D from the sunshine. This takes some focus off the food and can help you feel more energized and positive.

Tip #5: Get creative with exercise

Use your calendar. Make exercise appointments for yourself every day, treating your appointment as you would any other appointment.

Work out to your favorite Christmas carols. Exercising to jazz versions of traditional tunes allows you to get in the spirit while burning calories.

Get your steps in while Christmas shopping. Arrive at the shopping center 30 minutes prior to the store opening to take a stroll, and use that time to window shop and prepare your list in your head. Park farther away from the stores than normal. Every step adds up!

When baking goods, exercise during the time it takes to bake. This is an excellent time to do jumping jacks, pushups, or sit-ups.

While staying positive and fit, enjoy this heart-healthy recipe:

Brussels sprout slaw with cranberries and walnuts (makes 8 servings)

• 3/4 pound Brussels sprouts
• 1 Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
• 2/3 cup dried cranberries
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• 1/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice*
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
*If Meyer lemons are not available, use 1/4 cup regular fresh lemon juice or juice from 2 large

• Trim bottom from sprouts, and remove any loose or bruised leaves.
• Place shredding disc or fine slicing disc in food processor, and using feeder tube, gradually shred Brussels sprouts; there will be about 4 1/2 cups. Transfer shredded sprouts to mixing bowl.
• Add apple, cranberries, walnuts, salt, pepper and lemon juice, and stir with a fork to combine. Add oil and stir well.
• Cover and refrigerate slaw for 1 to 3 hours or overnight for flavors to marinate.
• Re-stir before serving. This slaw is best served within 24 hours.

Nutrition information: Serving size: 1/8 recipe. Amount per serving: 120 calories, 7g fat (0.5g saturated fat), 15g carbohydrates, 2g protein, 3g fiber, 135mg sodium.

About Iredell Health System

Iredell Health System includes Iredell Memorial Hospital; Iredell Home Health; Iredell Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center; Community and Corporate Wellness; Occupational Medicine; the Iredell Physician Network and more. Iredell Memorial Hospital is the largest and only nonprofit hospital in Iredell County. The comprehensive healthcare facility has 247 beds; more than 1,700 employees; and has 260 physicians representing various specialties. Centers of excellence include Women’s and Children’s; Cardiovascular; Cancer; Surgical Services and Wellness & Prevention. The mission of Iredell Health System is to inspire wellbeing. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit www.iredellhealth.org.