Amid the holiday festivities, families can sneak in healthy activities without missing the fun, says Norma Olvera, a University of Houston College of Education professor who specializes in health education.

Olvera oversees several programs promoting healthy lifestyles, particularly among minority youth. She says the same strategies can be applied during the holiday season, kicking off healthy habits to last through the New Year and beyond. Focusing on youngsters is particularly important, she says, with one of every three minority children in Texas likely to be overweight.

“It’s important to teach children that being healthy does not have to be a chore,” says Olvera, who serves as director of the Latino Health Disparities Lab at UH and runs BOUNCE, Behavior Opportunities Uniting Nutrition Counseling and Exercise. The BOUNCE initiative includes parenting classes, school-based nutrition programs, cooking demonstrations, grocery store tours and a popular summer program primarily for low-income, Hispanic and African-American girls ages 9 to 14.

Olvera offers these tips for families for the holiday season:

  1. Before heading to a holiday party, have a high-fiber snack such as an apple to keep combat cravings.
  2. Use smaller plates at mealtime to encourage appropriate portions. Start filling the plate with salad or vegetables before hitting the entrees and desserts.
  3. Do a healthy cooking demonstration for or with the kids. Substitute applesauce for oil or butter when baking, for example. Then enjoy the final product.
  4. Don’t forget to stay hydrated, avoiding sweetened beverages.
  5. Fight the food coma after eating by planning a family walk or a bike ride, instead of watching TV.
  6. Feeling ambitious? Plan your own 5K fun run or walk with friends or neighbors.
  7. Arrange a family outing to the zoo, checking out the animals while getting in lots of steps.
  8. Prefer to stay indoors? Search the internet for yoga videos. You’ll even find ones themed for Christmas or the movie “Frozen.”
  9. Turn on the holiday tunes and make your own family dance video. Laughing also burns calories.
  10. Need a last-minute holiday gift? Try new workout clothes for the whole family.

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 43,700 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.

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