Staying healthy during the holidays

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- With the holidays quickly approaching, I caught myself sitting at my desk thinking about how my fitness is going to suffer when I travel up north on vacation.

A lack of exercise combined with my dad's cooking and staying up late to hang out with family and sleeping in a bed that I'm not used to makes it difficult to keep a healthy routine.

So, I decided to do some research and take a trip to the community dietitian at the 509th Medical Group to learn how to take care of myself while I'm on leave this holiday season.

When I road-trip I usually depend on energy drinks and candy to keep me awake, but believe it or not, water is best for you instead of other beverages. It will help you stay awake and keep you alert on the road. Drinking energy drinks will make you lethargic later on down the road and a healthy alternative to candy could be air-popped popcorn without butter and lightly salted, fruits, vegetables or whole grain crackers.

Holiday meals tend to not be prepared low-calorie, especially in my family. I have learned that just one serving of prime rib can have over 400 calories, and by the time you add sides and desserts one meal can very easily total up to over 1,000 calories. The good news is that there is still a way to enjoy the dishes you love and cut out some of the negative. One option is replacing butter with margarine, or if you have poultry, you can choose the light meat instead of the dark. You can also cut sugar and oil out of your desserts by replacing them with apple sauce when you bake.

Although the holidays can be a time for celebration, we have to watch what we drink. Always be aware of the calories and other effects different drinks may have on your body. Keep in mind that alcohol can not only damage your liver, but it also has hundreds of empty calories. A single beer can contain 150 calories and dark liquors may have up to 110 calories in just one shot.

Now that you've had your fill of a holiday feast, it's time to work it off. If you're lucky enough to be visiting family in the South, you can stay active by taking advantage of the warm weather and going on walks or bike rides. If you find yourself surrounded by snow, outdoor activity is not impossible. Did you know that an hour-long snowball fight can burn up to 350 calories?

Our bodies enable us to do our jobs every day in order to achieve the mission. If you don't take care of your body, you can greatly reduce your ability to be your best for the Air Force.

So before you grab that extra slice of pecan pie to put you in that food coma this holiday season, remember that it takes almost an hour of shoveling snow to burn those calories off!