For Better Living


Minimize stress during the holidays

Although we look forward to the holidays, many of us wonder how we can fit anything else into our already busy lives. Besides decorating and sending cards, we’re busy baking and preparing special dishes, shopping for just-the-right gifts, attending parties and entertaining. We often find ourselves exhausted, grouchy and sometimes with a few extra pounds because we get stressed at this time of year. Consider these ideas to help you stay on track.

Try to keep your everyday routine on track as much as possible and you’ll be less likely to gain weight during the holidays. A study done by the National Institute of Health found that American adults gain an average of 0.4 to 1.8 pounds each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

If you can’t fit in your usual exercise routine, modify it and just do – something. Exercise is a stress reducer all by itself as well as an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Whether or not you currently have an exercise routine, walking is always a good choice and doesn’t require special gear other than good shoes. Go to the mall early and start your shopping trip with a brisk walk before you’re weighed down with packages. Twenty minutes of walking can burn 100 calories for a 150-pound person. That translates into an hour of brisk walking to burn the calories in a slice of pumpkin pie.

All the get-togethers that include food – and typically lots of it – can contribute unwanted pounds. Set a few ground rules for yourself. Don’t skip meals or go to a party hungry. Have a healthy snack before you leave home. When the hostess asks you to bring something to share, choose a healthy dish. You can count on plenty of other fun food already there. Eat away from the buffet table to avoid refilling your plate.

Remember that it’s the first few bites that taste the best.

Plan ahead whenever you can. If you’ve been asked to donate cookies, select a favorite holiday recipe, double it, and pop the extras in the freezer to share with friends and family. Put your dinner in the crock pot to cook all day while you’re shopping.

Since we spend more time in the grocery store over the holiday season shopping for ingredients for special recipes, take the opportunity to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies to keep on hand for snacking instead of reaching in the cookie jar or snack cupboard. If you’re off for a day of shopping, take along a banana or apple for snacking to avoid the food court’s higher calorie choices.

When you just can’t figure out how to fit in that last task on your to-do list, consider eliminating it. Striving for perfection can be the root of stress. It’s okay not to make all the varieties of holiday cookies you usually do. Purchased yeast rolls can substitute for homemade rolls and save you time. Also, don’t hesitate to ask those coming to your party or holiday dinner to bring a favorite dish.

Finally, consider planning a little extra in your holiday budget to pamper yourself to minimize the stress factor. You may want to have a massage, read a new book or rent a newly released movie Remember to make time for yourself. The important thing is to keep everything in perspective. Make camaraderie more important than the perfect menu, gift or decoration.

Source: Colorado Cooperative Extension

Leftover Turkey Soup

1 cup turkey, cooked

6 cups water

1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked

2 onions

1/2 green pepper

3 carrots

2 stalks celery

10 ounces corn, frozen

15 ounces low sodium tomatoes, canned, chopped

1. In a large saucepan, combine turkey, water and rice.

2. Cover and simmer for 1/2 hour.

3. While turkey and rice are cooking, cut the ends off of the onion, and peel off the brown layers. Run under water to remove any dirt. Cut the onion in half lengthwise, and place the flat side on the cutting board. Slice across the onion, from one side to the other, then lay the slices on their side, and slice from the widest side to the smallest, across the onion. Chop up any large pieces. Set aside.

4. Wash a green pepper and, hold it by the top with the bottom sitting on a cutting board. Slice down one side, cutting between the spines where the white membranes are. Turn the pepper to the next side, and slice off the next side between the spines. Keep turning until you have a skeleton. This piece can be thrown away. Take the sides you have created and slice them apart, then dice the slices. Set aside.

5. Wash a carrot and place it on a cutting board. Cut off both ends. Starting at the small end, slice into thin slices. Set aside.

6. Wash a celery stalk and lay it on a cutting board. Cut off both ends and cut into shorter lengths. Lay these pieces side by side. Cut wider pieces in half lengthwise so that all the pieces are about the same size. Cut across the ends until all pieces are chopped up. Set aside.

7. Add onions, green pepper, carrots, celery, corn, and tomatoes to soup after turkey and rice have cooked for 30 minutes.

8. Cover and simmer for 30 more minutes until vegetables are tender.

Sandra R. Cain is the extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences at the Bladen County Extension Office.

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Minimize stress during the holidays
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