Healthy Holidays: Mindfulness, Family History and Leftovers
In this Fox 8 House Call series, Cone Health experts discuss holiday topics, including:
- Melissa Leonard, MS, RDN, LDN, discusses how to be mindful about your meals this holiday season.
- Karen Powell, MS, CGC, explains why discussing your family health history is so important.
- Laura Jobe, RD, LDN, talks about how to safely store leftover food after Thanksgiving.
The holidays don't have to mean weight gain or strict restraint; there is a way to keep this holiday enjoyable and healthy. To start, don’t skip breakfast to save room for supper. Skipping meals earlier in the day can mean we come to the dinner table overly hungry. Being overly hungry often makes us want to eat quickly and with little thought about how a food tastes or how our body feels as we are eating. If our body feels like it’s starving by the time we reach the a meal, we will be much less likely to be mindful of our body’s satiety signals and much more likely to overeat, becoming uncomfortably full by the end of the meal. Ensuring our body receives regular, balanced meals leading up to dinner helps us slow down and be more mindful of how pleasurable foods taste and how our body feels as we are eating them.
We often have an overload of food options and end up with a heaping plate filled with some foods we really like and others we may not want to finish. When we fill our plate, we often feel a need to eat all of the food on it, even the foods we may not really want. This can also lead to overeating and a less enjoyable meal experience. Rather than filling up your plate with large portions of food, begin with a small amount of the foods you want to try and then go back for seconds if you are still hungry.
While food is often the first thing we think of when we talk about during the holidays, it is important to take time to enjoy all parts of the holiday, like spending time with family and friends. Being mindful can help you better enjoy the foods of the holiday by savoring them and preventing uncomfortable fullness by listening to your body’s needs. But if you find yourself overeating this holiday, don’t allow it to take your joy away. Be kind to yourself and enjoy your the holiday.
Cone Health understands the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle to increase and ensure overall well-being and has an exceptional team of dietitians, physicians, nurses and other related health care providers dedicated to educating our community on proper nutrition and other beneficial lifestyle choices.
Melissa Leonard, MS, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian at Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services in Greensboro.
Time to Talk About Family Health History
While the holidays aren’t the only time of year to talk to your family, they are a great opportunity to discuss the health history of many family members at once. Knowing your family history can help you better understand your own health and alert you if you are at greater risk of developing cancer or other serious diseases. For individuals with a family history of certain diseases, it may be recommended to begin getting screened before the normally recommended age, which is why it’s important to talk with your primary care provider if you learn that you have a family history of cancer, especially through close relatives.
If you have the opportunity this holiday season, talk with your family members about the history of illness in your family. It may not be an easy conversation to start, but there are many ways that you can respectfully discuss health. Before your family gathering, think through your family tree and come up with questions. Examples of questions to start with might include:
- Where were you born and raised?
- Did you or any of your siblings have any health problems? When did they start?
- Did either of your parents take medicine on a regular basis? If so, for what?
- Has your family lived anywhere that caused them health problems?
- Has anyone had problems in pregnancy or childbirth?
- Are there any diseases that “run in the family?”
Pay attention to how early someone was diagnosed and if there is a pattern throughout the family of any illnesses. It’s also important to take lifestyle and location into account: did they smoke or consume large amounts of alcohol? Did they live somewhere that would’ve contributed to poor health? Keep in mind that health may be a sensitive subject for some loved ones and respect their boundaries if they don’t want to discuss it.
Talk to your doctor about what you discover through these discussions. Depending on variables such as the form of illness, which family member(s) was diagnosed and at what age, the patient may be referred to genetic counseling services. Genetic counselors also determine the most appropriate genetic test(s) and the most informative approach to genetic testing for patients and their families. If a patient undergoes genetic testing, genetic counselors then help interpret the results and help them and their physicians understand and apply genetic test results to medical management decisions.
Cone Health Cancer Center has a genetic counseling clinic dedicated to identifying individuals and families in the community with heritable cancer susceptibility to promote cancer-risk assessment and awareness, early cancer detection and cancer prevention. Some of the conditions that genetic counselors see include uterine, colon, breast, ovarian and rare cancers. The specialists at Cone Health also see pulmonary fibrosis patients.
Karen Powell, MS, CGC, is a genetic counselor at Cone Health Cancer Center.
Food Safety and Leftover Meals
This is the time of year you often indulge in holiday favorites. This leaves you with a full stomach and a refrigerator full of leftovers. When preparing food for others or for storage, it’s important to practice food handling safety. Any time you’ll be handling meat, you need to make sure that you use different plates and cutting boards for the raw meat, and that you wash your hands after handling it.
Once the food is served and everyone has had their fill, cover and store any leftover food. This will keep the food from going bad and will help you and your guests refrain from grazing even after you’re full. When saving food, it’s important to store it in a safe way that minimizes the risk of it spoiling. Seal and store food in clean, air-tight containers within 2 hours of cooking at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Food stored in air-tight containers in the refrigerator are good to eat for about 3 days. Freezing food can help it last longer.
Leftovers can make great meals after the holiday. If you have more leftovers than you think you can eat, consider bringing some to a friend, neighbor or loved one who wasn’t able to make it to a celebration. Other ways you can give leftovers new life include:
- Packaging your leftovers into individual frozen dinners.
- Freezing the leftover broth from the turkey in ice cube trays to use later.
- Using leftover broth and veggie tray vegetables to make a soup.
- Reheating roasted vegetables to eat over greens or grains.
Laura Jobe, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian with Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services in Greensboro.