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How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

What to eat and drink to keep your brood in top shape


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The holidays can be a time where healthy eating and exercise can be pushed to the side in favor of eggnog and holiday cheer. Here's how to keep you and your brood in good shape. 

Drink Lots of Water

Make sure the kids are getting enough water: A recent study from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than half of children and adolescents in the U.S. are dehydrated, which can have serious effects on their physical and cognitive health. 

The study, which appeared online in the American Journal of Public Health, looked at more than 4,000 children and adolescents ages 6–19 years old over three years. Researchers found that just over half the kids weren’t getting enough fluids—and a quarter of them said they didn’t drink any water at all. Results also showed discrepancies along racial and gender lines: Black children were more dehydrated than white kids and boys were thirstier than girls. 

Even mild dehydration can cause problems, including  decreased cognitive functioning and physical performance, headaches and irritability. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids drink around six (eight-ounce) glasses of water on an average day—more when they exercise.  

To keep their fluid intake on target, send kids to school with an extra water bottle to keep on their desk (not just one for lunch) and ask them to finish every drop before the final bell rings. Have them drink the same amount once they get home and again before bed.

Make Sure to Eat Healthy... Even Post-January 1

It may feel like the holiday season is the healthy-eating low point for the family—but research shows you may actually be eating just as badly (if not worse!) after you make that New Year’s resolution. A study by a group of researchers at Cornell University, published in PLOS ONE, found people’s junk-food-buying habits didn’t really change at the beginning of January. 

“People start the new year with good intentions to eat better,” says Lizzy Pope, the study’s author and an assistant nutrition and food sciences professor at the University of Vermont. “They pick out more healthy items, but they also keep buying higher levels of less-healthy holiday favorites. So their grocery baskets contain more calories than any other time of year we tracked.” 

According to the study, families bought nine percent more calories for consumption after January 1 than they did during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s.

Be Careful What Movie You Watch

If seeing a movie in the theater is part of your family’s holiday tradition, you may want to pick a comedy instead of a tearjerker—or at least skip the concession stand. Researchers at Cornell University analyzed the remains of popcorn containers by “dumpster diving.” They found moviegoers who watched a sad film ate 55 percent more popcorn than those who watched a happy one. 

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