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Making healthy holiday choices as a family

For the last several months, I have decided to make a lifestyle change in terms of my fitness and eating habits. The change from a very active, hands on, busy job to a new career that has me sitting in my office for many hours of the day caused me to gain weight. It wasn't all at once: the pounds sneaked up on me a little at a time. Yes, I knew I had put on a few pounds, but when I had weighed myself I was rather surprised. I knew it was time for some changes. I wanted my energy back.

The first step I made was getting active. I dusted off my gym membership key fob, bought some new headphones and headed off to the local gym. My workouts gave me increased energy, which in turn, made me want to eat healthier. I enjoy using the various machines in the gym to work on certain parts of my body, but being outdoors in nature is where I get my best workouts in. There is nothing better than a hike at Soldiers Delight or enjoying the scenery in my own neighborhood. Breathing in the fresh air and listening to the leaves rustle and dogs barking never gets old.

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This rejuvenation and motivation followed me into the kitchen as well. My family and I have been eating smaller portions, cutting out the carbs and increasing out water intake. Making this a family change has made this healthy challenge a team effort. Removing unhealthy foods and taking evening walks together has brought on a sense of camaraderie.

With the holiday season underway, I knew the next few months were going to be a test of our team spirit. With the cookie exchanges, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn bread stuffing and Aunt Mary's pumpkin pie, I had to come up with a game plan to survive the cravings. After some research and talking to my coach at the gym, my family and I sat down and came up with a healthy holiday game plan.

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The first thing we wanted to do was take the focus off of the food. We wanted to make the holidays a celebration of family and friends, not the feast. The focus of Thanksgiving, instead of being the giant turkey, would be getting to see all of our nieces, nephews and cousins. It would be about the traditions we love to share together, like sitting and watching the football games, or picking names for the Christmas gift exchange. We would be thinking about what we are all gathering for — family time and celebration — not food.

In holidays past, the game plan was to skip breakfast the morning of the holiday feast. This would leave room for all of the appetizers, meal and dessert, allowing us to overindulge in the holiday spread. This year, we are taking a new approach. The morning before a holiday meal, we are going to enjoy a nice healthy breakfast of whole grain cereal or yogurt and fruit, followed by a brisk morning walk before we head over to the relatives house. Not having an empty stomach should help us avoid overdoing it on cheese and crackers or deviled eggs.

This year, I also informed the family that I will not be bringing my usual whipped cream pumpkin dip and sweet potato casserole. Instead, we are going to bring some more healthy dishes to share. I found a great mashed cauliflower recipe as well as an acorn squash casserole. This gives us some healthy options for dinner without having to put the burden on our extended family of trying to change what they are preparing. I am hoping these tasty recipes can be a part of the new traditions as well.

Eating healthier does not mean we have to give up some of the holiday goodies we enjoy every year; we are simply planning to budget our calories and change our way of thinking about food. I am definitely saving some room for a small slice Aunt Mary's delectable pumpkin pie.

Kelly Scible is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached via email at kellyscible@gmail.com.

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