Managing Holiday Temptations for People with Special Needs or Disabilities

By Guest Blogger Laura O’Reilly, R.N., B.A., AVP Health and Wellness, Easter Seals New Jersey
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Celebrating the Holiday Season is a reason to eat, drink and be merry. Who can resist? Is it possible to get through the holiday season without gaining weight? I cannot promise that, but it is possible to minimize weight gain and use each day as a chance to get back on track by trying some of these tips.  It is important to know that all of us, whether or not we live with a disability or other special need, can enjoy a healthy and productive holiday season!

Fill Up on Salads and Raw Veggies Before Trying the Other Foods

You will curb your appetite with healthier foods and eat less of the fattening fare.

Ask for a Healthier Option When Dining Out

Nowadays most food establishments understand dietary concerns. When ordering a meal or planning your own affair, ask for lighter foods. The meals can still be delicious and filling without being fattening and unhealthy. Save the calories for dessert, if that’s your pleasure.  Speaking of dessert…

Limit Your Portions

Have 2 cookies instead of 5. Eat one piece of cake instead of sampling the whole dessert table. (Decisions, decisions).

Eat Lighter Low Calorie Foods a Few Days Before and a Few Days After Parties

If you know you will be indulging, eat a lot of nourishing plant based foods and lean proteins, and skip second helpings.  By creating a calorie deficit without starving yourself, you can minimize weight gain.

Get Physical

Weight management is about energy (calories) in and energy (calories) out. If you eat more than your body needs the inevitable result is weight gain. A body in motion burns calories.  Put walks, physical activity and gym sessions on your daily to-do list. (Easier said than done…but when you do it you will be glad you did!)

Caregivers Can Act as Role Models

People with disabilities can find it more difficult to always eat healthy, control their weight, and be physically active. Some reasons for this are a lack of healthy food choices, medications that can contribute to weight gain, and physical limitation that can reduce a person’s ability to exercise.

Caregivers and Parents can influence the eating habits of those whom they care for. Making nutritious meals available and managing portions can help to manage weight and to prevent certain chronic diseases that are related to a poor diet.

Healthy Snacks Help Reduce Calories1

Put out bowls of fruit, or plates of raw veggies and lowfat dip instead of junk food. Offer lowfat yogurt instead of ice cream. Make healthy options available at mealtime and snacktime.

Help is Available

There is not one nutrition plan that will work for everyone. Age, height, weight and gender are just a few factors that determine nutrition needs. Other aspects such as physical activity, special needs, family health history and present health conditions require further specialization. Dietitians take all of these things into consideration and are able to create a personalized plan that aligns with your specific health needs and goals. Discuss nutrition support options with your healthcare provider to create a plan to help you to succeed.

It is the holidays, and they only come once a year, so enjoy yourself.  It’s all about balance. Cheers!

About the Guest Blogger

Laura leads the Easter Seals New Jersey Be Well! & Thrive Health and Wellness Program for individuals with disabilities and special needs.  She is the Vice President of the New Jersey Local Boards of Health Association and a member of the DHS Division of Aging Health Promotion Advisory Committee.  She is the author of “Get Fit To Go: Motivation to Exercise and Get Healthy””, and has written hundreds of published articles as a weekly newspaper columnist and contributor throughout the U.S.

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