As holiday parties, performances and other activities start stacking up on calendars, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all and let healthy habits slide — going to bed later, eating too many holiday cookies, and exercising less — or not at all. Kaiser Permanente San Francisco pediatrician Diana Bojorquez, MD, offers the following tips to keep you and your kids healthy and happy this holiday season.
- Get enough sleep. It’s important for everyone to maintain a regular shut-eye schedule — sleep restores and repairs our bodies, not to mention plentiful sleep helps with weight loss and mental capacity, among other health benefits. Adults should get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and children need more, with very young ones needing as much as 12 hours nightly.
Prevent illness. There are little things, such as washing your hands and not sharing utensils, which we can all do to keep germs at bay and avoid colds and viruses. But the best defense against the flu is one that many people don’t do: Get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente physicians recommend it for anyone 6 months and older. So if you haven’t already gotten yourself and your family a flu shot, now is the time. It takes about two weeks for your body to build up protection against the flu after you get vaccinated.
- Follow a healthy diet. Did you know most Americans gain an average of one pound over the holidays, according to the National Institutes of Health? And they usually don’t lose it, meaning over time, the weight adds up. Be a role model for your kids. Moderate the treats and instead of digging into the holiday treats, snack on fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet not only helps with waistlines, it also evens out energy levels. Start the day off with a healthy breakfast, and minimize juice and other sugary foods to avoid energy dips and mood swings.
- Reduce stress. The holidays are fun but too many commitments can be overwhelming. Feeling stressed from time to time is normal, but if those feelings persist, it can lead to physical and emotional problems. Checking in with your children frequently — a good time is over family dinners — can help. Parents should also take time for themselves to unwind and restore their peace of mind.
- Exercise regularly. The role that exercise plays in controlling and preventing illness is well known, and federal guidelines call for 150 minutes of physical activity a week. But being active regularly can be challenging as the days shorten, the weather cools and events disrupt our schedules. Make exercising a family affair by taking walks after meals or creating fun, physically engaging activities, such as a treasure hunt.