HOTFLASHES | December 2021

Eating Healthy During the Holidays

It’s no secret that many people abandon their diets once the holiday season rolls around, with good intentions to pick it back up as a New Year’s Resolution. In fact, between mid-November and mid-January, adults in Western societies gain an average of 1 pound. This may not seem like a lot, but most people don’t lose this extra baggage. While it can be easy to give up when the endless barrage of unhealthy sweets comes around and it’s too cold outside to go for that run, it’s still possible to maintain a healthy weight during the holiday season. Here are a few tips to help you through.

  • Be active with family and friends instead of the common holiday traditions of sitting on the couch watching TV.
  • Snack wisely by keeping unhealthy snacks out of sight at home. For holiday parties, bring a healthy option for yourself like a fruit or vegetable tray, or snack on something like nuts beforehand.
  • Watch your portion sizes by using smaller plates and skipping seconds. You can also try to read food labels and recommended serving sizes on pre-packaged food.
  • Practice mindful eating, instead of multitasking while eating, which can increase the chance that you’ll overeat. Try taking a few deep breaths before you start eating and chewing slowly and thoroughly throughout your meal.
  • Keep meals balanced with protein instead of carbs.
  • Try to include more fiber, which can make you feel fuller, in your diet with things like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts.
  • Cut back on taste-testing when cooking for others. A small bite is usually more than enough.
  • Instead of testing out all the deserts, just focus on savoring your favorites and forget the rest.
  • Limit liquid calories like alcohol and soda that can be more common during the holiday season.
  • Weigh yourself regularly to remind yourself of your weight goals.
  • Find a buddy with similar goals that you can report successes too.
  • Set clear and realistic boundaries and goals for yourself, instead of having the “I’ll start tomorrow” mentality. However, be gentle with yourself when you have the inevitable slip up or two.


Information from


Trying to Conceive

If you and your partner have made the decision that you’re ready to have children, it can be hard to wait months for that positive pregnancy test. You may have already waited several months or even years until you felt like you were financially and mentally ready, so what can you do to speed up the process now that you’re ready?

  • Schedule a preconception checkup with a doctor or midwife
  • Kick any unhealthy habits (like drinking, smoking, or using drugs)
  • Get yourself to a healthy weight
  • Start to take at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily about a month before you start trying to conceive. (This nutrient can dramatically reduce the risk of certain birth defects.)
  • Figure out when you ovulate by using ovulation predictors, at home tests, or a combination of both
  • Have sex during your fertile window (2-3 days before ovulation) once you know when you ovulate

And it’s not just about the ladies when it comes to conception. There are things your partner can do to promote healthy sperm.

  • Avoid tobacco and recreational drugs
  • Limit alcoholic drinks to no more than two a day
  • Get to a healthy weight if overweight
  • Get enough of certain key nutrients – like zinc, folic acid, and vitamin C – that help produce strong and plentiful sperm
  • Eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and manage stress


Information from


Sugar Cut-Out Cookies


  • Natural Decorating Sugars
  • ½ cup clear crystal sugar, white sparkling sugar or sanding sugar (see Tips), divided
  • “Holiday” red natural liquid dye (see Tips)
  • Green natural liquid dye (see Tips)

Cookie Dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
  • ⅔ cup white whole-wheat flour (see Tips)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup canola oil or corn oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract or lemon extract



Step 1: To prepare decorating sugars: Divide decorating sugar between two small bowls. Add a few drops of red dye to one and green dye to the other and stir until evenly blended. Adjust color with more dye as desired.

Step 2: Spread each colored sugar in a thin layer on a separate small parchment-lined baking sheet. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees F for 2 minutes, then immediately turn it off. (The warm oven dries the sugar, but too much heat will burn it.) Let the sugars stand in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. (The sugars may be stored airtight at room temperature for up to 1 year.)

Step 3: To prepare cookie dough: Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Beat oil, butter, granulated sugar, egg and lemon zest in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended. Beat in honey, vanilla and almond (or lemon) extract until evenly incorporated.

Step 4: With the mixer on low speed, then medium speed, beat about half the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until incorporated. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated.

Step 5: Divide the dough into thirds. Place one third on a 12-inch-long sheet of parchment paper and shape into a disk. Top with a second sheet of parchment. Roll the dough out between the parchment into an 8-inch circle about 1/4 inch thick. Place the dough in the paper on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Freeze on the baking sheet until cold and firm, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. Place another baking sheet in the freezer to chill too (it will be used under the dough as the cookies are cut out).

Step 6: To shape cookies: Position a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.

Step 7: Working with one portion of dough at a time, remove from the freezer and place on the chilled baking sheet. Remove the top sheet of parchment and cut out cookies with 2 1/2- to 3-inch cookie cutters. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet with a wide, thin spatula, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Repeat with the remaining dough. (If the dough gets too soft, freeze until firm again. As you cut out cookies, set aside the scraps. Shape all the scraps back into a disk and reroll between parchment. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before cutting out.)

Step 8: To decorate & bake cookies: Sprinkle cookies with red and green sugars and gently pat to help them adhere. Bake the cookies on the center rack, one pan at a time, until browned on the bottom, 6 to 12 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.


Recipe from