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Experts offer advice for healthy holiday season




The holidays are an opportunity for people to count their blessings -- and carbohydrates.

The month between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve is full of hazards for those concerned with their weight. Navigating parties, dinners and the office break room can be a struggle because of the countless temptations to indulge.

"There tends to be more holiday parties, and people get into the spirit of baking and make a lot of goodies and like to share those with their co-workers," said Andrea Harmoney, a registered dietitian at Hays Medical Center, 2220 Canterbury.

Many justify eating more because they are spending time with loved ones. Stress and busy schedules also drive people to eat fast food rather than prepare meals at home.

Whether hosting for dinner or contributing a dish, people can find healthy alternatives. Substituting pureed fruits for oil in baking recipes, using low-fat versions of dairy-based ingredients and putting gravy in the fridge to isolate the fat are all tactics.

Another suggestion is to bring a healthy dish, such as a fruit tray, to parties.

Keeping a journal for food consumption and exercise also can raise awareness. All these proactive measures are more effective than treating the consequences.

"We definitely always have an influx of patients at the first of the year," Harmoney said. "Both from the realm of wanting to start an exercise program and new diet and trying to lose that weight ... that fresh start kind of thing."

Local exercise enthusiasts suggested setting a routine is key to staying healthy year-round.

Diana Darnell, Hays, said she will follow her normal habit of working out during weekly classes at the Hays Recreation Commission Fitness Center, 1105 Canterbury.

"I exercise every Tuesday and Thursday with the 'Sit and Be Fit' for the seniors, and I walk Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Two miles every day," Darnell said.

Dave Quillin, wellness director at the HRC fitness center, said his staff teaches members there is no "get fit season," because it is ongoing. The family-friendly facility is warm and inviting to encourage steady visits, and programs are offered through the year.

"We try to reiterate the fact that it's not seasonal. Wellness, not exercising in general, is ongoing," he said.

Madison Fulton, a junior at Fort Hays State University, was working out in the university's gym. An active lifestyle soothes her nerves.

"Exercise is kind of calming to me, and I get anxious if I just sit around all day, so I go do something," she said.