12 healthy ways to have a cheery Christmas

It’s the season of festivities now that it is Christmas once again. Christmas parties abound everywhere: with neighbors, office mates, close friends and families.
In the midst of all the fun and laughter, let us not forget what Christmas is all about: love and peace as the Child Jesus has given us.
Let us also remember that inner peace and love are manifestations of our health and wellbeing, and result in genuine peace on earth and goodwill toward mankind.
Do you know that Christmas and New Year are also the seasons for the most number of heart attacks and strokes due to high blood pressure, increase in blood sugar, and vehicular accidents due to drunk driving?
This is because this season is also the “mostest” season for bad cholesterol and fats, e.g. lechon baboy at baka (roasted pig/calf), bulalo, sisig; high salt food, e.g. ham, queso de bola, chorizo, longganisa; super sweet and also high in bad cholesterol food like cakes, ice cream, pastries.
It is truly fiesta time everyday with Christmas parties being held daily. But if you want to reach the Year 2020 alive and well, here are healthy tips to have a cheery Christmas and a joyous new year:

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. If ever you have to eat meat, always eat it with plenty of fruits and vegetables. It is best that fruits and vegetables are eaten fresh and raw, as appropriate. Green leafy and yellow vegetables should be given premium. Drink also freshly prepared fruit and vegetable juices, as much as possible without sugar or with honey as a sweetener.
  2. Avoid fried and fatty foods. At best, prepare dishes that are grilled, roasted, steamed, poached, baked or boiled. Serve soups with a variety of vegetables. Remove the fatty part from meat. With chicken and other fowl dishes, remove the skin.
  3. Drink water or fruit and vegetable juices before eating. This will lessen your food intake. Remember with the daily parties, there will always be extra calories adding to your weight. Avoid soda and soft drinks. Aside from being high in sugar, these are also high in sodium which can affect your blood pressure. If you must have soda, limit your drink to one serving.
  4. Eat more fish than meat. Any kind of fish is preferred. Fish contains good cholesterol which helps remove the bad cholesterol from pork, beef and veal. Broiled, boiled, steamed or baked fish is recommended over fried. Lessen the intake of shrimps, prawns, crabs, oysters, mussels and other shellfishes. All these are high in bad cholesterol and salt.
  5. Be moderate in drinking any kind of alcohol. Yes, red wine is healthy but limit it to one or two glasses a day only. The same is true for beer and other types of wine. If it is gin, rum, whiskey, vodka or brandy, take no more than a shot or two. But if you are driving, do not drink at all. If you should drink, ensure you have a designated driver who will be alcohol-free for the night.
  6. For dessert, take the fresh fruits first. Limit cakes, pastries and ice cream to very small portions. These are high in sugar and bad cholesterol. Better yet, choose Filipino desserts like biko, palitaw, sapin-sapin, puto bungbong and suman since these have less cholesterol but though still high in sugar.
  7. Even if it is Christmastime, exercise. Brisk walk for 20 to 30 minutes a day at least three times a week. When shopping, take a walk first around the mall without stopping for 20 minutes and then proceed with your stop and buy agenda. Play your favorite sport. Try the Filipino games during your parties like tumbang preso, patintero, piko and sipa. Do also the various body, muscle and joint stretches daily.
  8. Rest. Take the much needed seven to eight hours of sleep a day. Keep a daily 15 to 20 minutes of complete silence, keeping still and calm with eyes closed. This will give you maximum relaxation for all the stresses of the holiday season.
  9. Pray. Christmas is also a time of prayer. Pray for peace, harmony, equity and social justice to thrive in the world today. Upon waking up in the morning, say a prayer of thanks for another good day the Lord has given us. At the end of the day, take stock and give praise to the Almighty for all the blessings received.
  10. Forgive and ask for forgiveness. Christmas is one of the best times to forgive. If there is that someone who has given you problems, trouble, hurt or harm, take that extra time to forgive that person. Extinguish that pain or hate inside. Inner peace comes with forgiveness. On the other hand, if we are the ones at fault, beg for forgiveness and promise not to do it again.
  11. Christmas is the time to give and receive love, from our significant other, family, relatives and friends. It is also a good time for reunions with former classmates, gangmates and officemates. Send greetings of love and joy to them by a telephone call, an e-mail, a text message or the good old letter or card.
  12. Do something good. Greet a stranger on the street. It may seem crazy but try it and feel the goodness it brings. Help someone, be it a street child, a beggar, an old person or a disabled. Visit a prisoner. Volunteer for community work in your parish or barangay. This is the true essence of Christmas.
    May all these tips bring you happiness this Christmas and New Year. May your life be filled with love, peace and joy.
    A cheery Christmas to all!

By Jaime Z. Galvez Tan, MD MPH

The author is the chairman and founder of Health Futures Foundation Inc., a civil society organization working to create communities of wellness in marginalized communities nationwide.