12 tips to get healthier by Christmas - LivewellNebraska.com
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12 tips to get healthier by Christmas

The holidays are upon us, and there are a lot of people trying to stay healthy! If you are one of those people, or have now decided you want to be, try the following health challenge. There are really 14 days until Christmas, so you have a couple of days to prepare.

As the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” suggests, complete the following activities for each of the days until Christmas for the best gift you can give yourself…good health! Add on the additional challenge each day, for best results, or try to do as many as you can until the last day. If you don't celebrate Christmas, you can still do the activity, just make sure to celebrate your healthy changes on Dec. 25.

Jill Koegel is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer based in Omaha. She blogs every Wednesday. Read more from Jill.

Day 1: Drink more water. This could be as simple as drinking a big glass of water when you would normally drink something else.

Day 2: Eat a vegetable at breakfast. Try a small leftover sweet potato (or about 1 cup) with some ground cinnamon on top, or add bell peppers and mushrooms to an omelet made with egg whites.

Day 3: Make a plan for your meals over the next few days or the next week, and write a grocery list to go with it.

Day 4: Add 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise to your day. If you are already exercising, add 15 extra minutes. This can be any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe harder.

Day 5: Stretch before you go to bed. Spend at least 10 minutes stretching the legs, back, chest and arms.

Day 6: Have a cup of green tea today. Do this when you have a craving for a holiday goody, or just do it to relax a little!

Day 7: Measure at least 3 foods that you eat today. Stick to appropriate portions of all foods. Refer to http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-portion-size-plate for great reference items.

Day 8: Do 15 minutes of strength training today. This can be as simple as repeated sets of push-ups (any kind), squats or lunges, chair/bench dips, and bicep curls.

Day 9: Stretch upon waking in the morning. Spend at least five minutes, but more is better!

Day 10: Eat every meal from home today. If you are working, or are out and about, pack a lunch bag.

Day 11: Bake something with a new ingredient such as the delicious new Greek sour cream by Breakstone. It has an unbelievable smooth texture that my kids and husband love, and I love that it is half the fat of regular sour cream. It was great on chicken tacos, but see below for a lightened up holiday recipe.

Day 12: Focus on protein today. It will help reduce cravings for sweets and will help you focus on something to include, not something to avoid. Here's to your health this holiday season!

Lighter Caramel-Pecan Cheesecake
Makes: 16 servings

1 cup Breakstone's Greek Style Sour Cream
1 cup chopped pecans, divided
50 reduced fat vanilla wafers, finely crushed (about 1-2/3 cups)
cup butter blend such as I Can't Believe its Not Butter Sticks, melted
4 packages (8 oz. each) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 eggs
cup low sugar caramel ice cream topping

Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop 1/2 cup nuts finely; mix with wafer crumbs and butter. Press onto bottom of 13x9-inch pan. Refrigerate until ready to use. Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add Greek style sour cream, flour and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust. Bake 45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 4 hours. Drizzle with caramel topping; sprinkle with remaining nuts.

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