Healthy for the holidays: It’s important to stay on track

Santa, who will receive a check-up at the South Jersey Kids Expo Nov. 17, isn’t the only one who needs to be healthy this season

It’s no secret Santa Claus needs to be in tip-top shape for Christmas Eve. After all, he has just one night to deliver trillions of presents to billions of children around the world, all the while enjoying milk and cookies at every stop along the way.

And you thought your job was demanding.

Luckily for Santa, the doctors with Rowan Medicine are going to ensure the jolly old elf is pre-flight ready with a check-up at the South Jersey Kids Expo on Saturday, Nov. 17. At the free family event, set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Rec Center at St. Matthew’s in Williamstown, the Rowan doctors will make a list — they’ll check it twice — to see that Santa is healthy for his big night.

Of course, it’s not just St. Nick who needs to stay healthy for the holidays; from kids to grandparents, everyone hopes to keep the jingle in their bells throughout the season. And while it’s easy for healthy habits to fall to the wayside, family physician Dr. Adarsh Gupta took time out of his busy schedule as director of the Rowan Medicine Center for Medical Weight Loss and Metabolic Control to discuss how prioritizing health this holiday is just as important as compiling that perfect holiday playlist.

Holidays, Gupta said, are all about social activities with food involved.

“Stay focused on socializing and less on food,” Gupta said. “Talking is calorie-free.”

Of course, it’s OK to indulge sometimes.

“It’s not about cutting out the food that you really like. I think when you start doing that, you start increasing your craving,” Gupta said. “The best thing to do is to watch your portion size and eat it very slowly, so the craving won’t be there and you don’t take in too much calorie.”

Also, eat your veggies, Gupta said. Even Santa’s belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly needs its vegetables.

No matter how busy you are, skipping meals is another no-no. It’s important kids are eating all of their meals, too.

“They should not skip their breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hunger builds up in time,” Gupta said, “and when they’re super hungry, whatever they see first is in their mouths.”

To balance out those extra sweet treats, staying active is key. For many people, however, getting to the gym is not so easy in November and December. According to Gupta, though, it’s not as hard as one may think to get in a workout.

“My focus is remain active,” Gupta said. “Everything is activity, whether it’s a program for physical activity like a treadmill or running, or a lifestyle activity like walking a dog or housework — they all are activity and burn calories.”

Need to do some Christmas shopping? Park farther from the store entrance to get in those extra steps. Stroll the mall. Take steps, not elevators or escalators.

“Try to track your steps. If you can reach 10,000 steps, that is great,” Gupta said.

Another important aspect of a healthy lifestyle is sleep. Santa may stay up all night on Christmas, but that doesn’t mean anyone else should. Sleep, Gupta explained, is important, and seven to nine hours is optimal. Children need more sleep than adults, and less than five hours of sleep is not recommended for anyone.

Even though not everyone is delivering trillions (that’s 12 zeros!) of toys on Christmas Eve, it’s no secret that stress can go hand-in-hand with the holidays. The best way to minimize this stress, according to Gupta, is by making time for yourself.

“Give some time for your mind to think. Ten to 15 minutes a day for yourself,” Gupta said.

He also advises people not to go for perfection.

“The most important thing, I feel, is to be realistic about what you can achieve. Don’t overcommit yourself. It’s OK to skip some (gatherings). That way, you can enjoy the time at the gatherings you do go to.”

Register for the free South Jersey Kids Expo, set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 17 at The Rec Center at St. Matthew’s in Williamstown, by visiting