The holidays are filled with time-honored traditions that involve family, friends and, all-too-often, an overabundance of food. While holiday planning is in full swing, it’s important to focus on balance to stay happy and healthy this holiday season, according to Gina Wood, family nutrition program specialist at the West Virginia University Extension Service.��

“So many of us struggle through the holiday season,” Wood said. “Luckily, maintaining health isn’t about giving up all of your favorite foods and traditions—it’s just about making smart, mindful decisions, practicing moderation and staying active.”

Studies show that Americans on average gain one-to-two pounds each year during the holiday season. While it may not seem like much, Wood said the weight gain can add up quickly if measures aren’t taken to bounce back to a healthy routine.

Luckily, according to Wood, staying balanced and maintaining health during the holidays is possible with a few small changes in lifestyle:

Get up and move. Being active helps to jump-start metabolism around holiday meals to burn calories and keep stress levels low. Families can even start a new tradition of taking a group walk before or after a meal, making health a priority for family members of all ages.

Give holiday recipes a makeover. It’s easier to maintain a more balanced diet during the holidays when recipes are made with the right ingredients. Whether it means using leaner meats or swapping a few ingredients in your favorite holiday desserts, making holiday meals healthier is a simple—and still delicious—way to cut back on calories. Visit for healthy recipe ideas to add to the holiday menu.

Keep holiday menus balanced. You don’t have to give up everything you enjoy eating to stay healthy. Where there’s an indulgent dessert, make sure to offer a fruit and veggie tray. Where there’s a hearty dip, include a lighter appetizer. Keep portions small and fill up on healthier alternatives before eating the higher calorie dishes.

Don’t drink your calories. Looking forward to enjoying a higher calorie holiday meal? Cut calories elsewhere in your diet by staying away from soda, alcohol and sugary beverages. Water, or even low-fat milk, is recommended to keep you full and prevent reaching for higher calorie drinks.

The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.

To learn more about WVU Extension programs, visit, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.



CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor,

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