A meal together.

Holiday food makes us happy, and hopefully not too hippy.

According to the American Council on Exercise, the average American ​takes in 3000 cal​ories​ at the typical Thanksgiving dinner. Some of us ​vacuum up even more… Kind of a disaster when you consider 2000 calories a day is all that most of us need. That’s a lot of turkey trotting to stay in balance and take care of that “energy surplus.”

​No worries… ​keep reading…here’s how to gobble without the wobble.

First of all, holiday foods can actually be quite healthy, if you know what you’re doing. And holiday get-togethers can be a great ​excuse to encourage others to join you in getting in some physical activity together. ​It’s not only fun and a change of pace from sitting, but a new study shows that “a daily bout of exercise should erase or lessen many of the injurious effects, even if you otherwise lounge all day on the couch and load up on pie,” ​a​ccording to the New York Times.

Here’s ​the food plan:
​1. ​Start the meal with soup. Soup fills you up for a tiny amount of calories. Bean soup is especially heart healthy. Pea soup is my personal favorite.

​2. ​Pile on the sweet potatoes. If you emphasize colorful vegetables such as orange sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and yams you get more nutritional punch for the calories.​ Roasting brings out their best.​

​3. ​Make the cranberry sauce fresh. You’ll get more vitamin C and more fiber to boot. To reduce the sugar needed I add chopped apples, oranges, and raisins for natural sweetness.

​4. ​Brussels sprouts are one of my least favorite foods, to tell you the truth. But along with other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli, they are packed with powerful nutrients.​ Here’s a recipe that even I might like.

​5. ​Apples, apples, apples–in cider, in applesauce, in pies… in your mouth. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is based in fact.

​6. ​Why not go meatless? In this day and age ideas abound for turkey instead-ofs. My personal favorite emphasizes portobello mushroom “steaks.”​ The New York Times has started a database of Thanksgiving vegetarian recipes.

​7. ​Ha​ve​ a nice crisp salad of deep dark greens. Kale, as we know, is all the rage. But there are lots of other healthy tasty greens to chop up and toss in the bowl.

Now for the activity​ plan​:
It’s been found that exercise not only burns some excess calories but it also has physiological effects beyond that. By staying active during the over-eating of the holidays you can actually improve your blood sugar control. It can also improve metabolism because exercise affects the way your fat cells express your genes. According to one of the researchers, “Exercise seemed to completely cancel out many of the changes induced by overfeeding and reduced activity.” In other cases it “softened” them so exercise​r​s were still at least better off than the​ ​nonexercisers in the study.

So, ​m​ake the effort to get off the couch and invite people you care about to come along with you. You’ll be doing yourself and others a big favor, and it’s just more fun to be out and about together. Here’s an example of a simple outdoor exercise routine that anyone can do.

​1. ​Warm up. Here’s a warm up video:

​2. ​Do bicycles for stronger, toned abs.

While on your walk, you can bicycle on just about any bench.

While on your walk, you can bicycle on just about any bench.

​3. ​Walk​ briskly.

​4. Stretch for relaxation and flexibility.

Benches and railings are convenient stretching equipment.

Benches and railings are convenient stretching equipment.

​5. ​Walk​ briskly.

​6. Do dips for your upper body.
Dips on a bench.

Dips on a bench… how many can you do?

​7. ​Cool down ​–you can just repeat the warm up!

Ok kids, that’s it–go enjoy yourself, and don’t forget to get outside and play. For more outdoor exercise ideas, click here.

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