Holiday health tips


‘Tis the season. 

It is the first column of December and the feeding frenzy has begun. The fantasy was to already be at a weight lower than the actuarial charts suggest, eat my way through the holidays and come out after bowl season at my ideal poundage. Fail.

Now I’d just be happy to avoid using gift cards to acquire more fat pants. But I am determined to use my head this holiday. It is not just the brain center which is allegedly supposed to send out the “stop: you are full” signal, it also houses the entry portal for all those seasonal treats — and that’s where the trouble starts.  

But since I may not be the only one on the crème horns of this dilemma, and because I have had way too much time to think lately, I offer these holiday health tips.

— Tip No. One — Don’t be deceived by all this holiday candy.

Hershey Kisses dressed in red, green and blue foil taste just like the Kisses wrapped in that same silver foil they come in all year long.   Ditto for Reese’s miniatures, York Peppermint Patties, and M&M’s.  Butterfinger Jingle Bells are really just chunks of chocolate with bits of Butterfinger sprinkled throughout.  They are okay for what they are, but if you are looking for a smaller bite of real Butterfinger, stick to fun size. 

— Tip No. Two — Don’t get too legalistic about Tip Number One. 

Some of the holiday candy really is only available this time of year and I, for one, will take advantage of it. But there are ways to work through the Wonka in a healthy way. Reese’s Trees are indeed different than regular Reese’s Cups due to the variation in chocolate to peanut butter ratio. They also can be found in singles, so instead of coming out with a six-pack (though it is a noble goal to save that Christmas coin by buying in bulk), I recommend rationing one Tree per trip. Even better, eat it between the cash register and the car, while walking; get that increased metabolism working. (Bonus tip: if you are careful not to talk to anyone who might be waiting for you in the car, they won’t smell your peanut butter breath and you don’t have to share or explain why you didn’t). Don’t forget, too, that peanut butter has a lot of protein and healthy fats. It’s too bad they don’t come enrobed in antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. 

An opposite approach must be taken with the Hershey Kisses in candy cane, mint truffle, and cherry cordial flavors. These will indeed disappear when all the after-Christmas markdowns have been sold or shipped back, and are not usually available in individual portions — you must face the quandary of the whole bag.  In this case I do recommend sharing, by opening the bag and verbally offering it to friends and family. So they can hear you.

Hiding the bag under a rarely-used afghan in the corner of your bedroom doesn’t count unless that makes you forget it’s there, in which case it might become a delicious Valentine’s Day surprise. 

— Tip No. Three — When shopping locally, park far away from the front door of the store, or the opposite end of the mall from your ultimate destination.

This is a common recommendation for getting more steps in your day — not original to me. And I try to do this anyway, if the weather is good, despite my genetic tendencies to drive around a parking lot twice or seven times to find the closest spot. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work well with all the online shopping.  Unless the laptop is perched on the treadmill, the online shopper is not only getting less exercise due to fewer parking lot laps, he or she probably has a bowl of holiday-wrapped Snickers at arm’s reach — or worse, two square feet of Hickory Farms products. I suggest making a pledge to walk once around the block for every dollar spent on online holiday shopping. Not only will it work off that Yard-O-Beef, it might help a little with those nasty January credit card bills. 

— Tip No. Four — Please step away from the egg nog. 

When I see the thickness and richness of my favorite brand as it coats the side of my glass, I’m assuming that one-third cup of the golden goodness comes out to approximately thirty-six Weight Watchers points. For those of you unfamiliar with this points system, that would be the equivalent of eating an entire box of Twinkies on a low-carb diet.

That is not just briefly hopping off the wagon — it is rather more like hurling yourself off the wagon and over the rail of the bridge into a raging stream of guilt.  And whew — it’s not true. The brand I like is more like six points for a half cup. 220 calories. Nine grams of luscious fat. Fine if I stopped at half a cup. But I don’t.  Ever.  I do have to pace myself to avoid diabetic coma, but I keep coming back to that beautiful gift-wrapped carton. Thankfully, this stuff is hard to find at Easter.

— Tip No. Five — If the first four tips are just too much to hope for, allow me to offer a few suggestions to help us muddle through the month. 

Wear untucked shirts or sweaters whenever in public. (I am already assuming we are all wearing pajama pants and extra-large t-shirts in the privacy of our homes. Did I just tell too much?) With shirt-tails running free, nobody can really tell that your pants are not buttoned at the top. Wearing a belt is not only helpful in disguising the unbuttoned state, it is also crucial in saving the wearer from embarrassing incidents should the zipper break out in freedom and victory.

No matter what — enjoy the holidays. At best, our palates will be pleased with the presents. At worst, we won’t have to deliberate about New Year’s resolutions.

Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at