Stay Healthy this Christmas Season

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Eating too much unhealthy food, especially those high in sugar, salt, and fats, increases the risk of developing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). As the Christmas season approaches, the Healthy Philippines Alliance (HPA) is reminding Filipinos about the importance of making healthy food choices to prevent NCDs.

The HPA is a network of organizations advocating for the prevention and control of NCDs such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, former Health secretary and convener of the HPA, emphasizes the need to resist the temptation to overeat during Christmas parties and dinners.

Instead of indulging in excessive amounts of food, Dr. Tan suggests opting for normal-sized servings and incorporating vegetables on your plate. He also recommends choosing fresh fruits for dessert as a healthier alternative. Prioritizing your health during the holiday season is crucial to avoid developing NCDs in the long run.

In addition to mindful eating, the HPA encourages families to check the nutrition labels on packaged food before purchasing and serving them during the holidays. By doing so, they can identify and avoid unhealthy beverages or food products.

Dr. Tan acknowledges that reading and understanding back-of-pack nutrient labels can be time-consuming for most people, especially during the Christmas rush. He suggests that mandatory food warning labels at the front of food packs would be more helpful. This way, individuals can quickly reject any food items that are high in sugar, salt, or fats.

The HPA also emphasizes the importance of staying physically active, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, refraining from smoking cigarettes and vape products, and getting enough sleep (seven to eight hours per night) to prevent NCDs during the holiday season.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs account for 70 percent of total deaths in the Philippines, resulting in approximately 512,000 deaths each year. Globally, NCDs are the leading cause of death and disability, claiming the lives of 41 million people annually, which is equivalent to 74 percent of all deaths worldwide.

The Department of Health (DoH) has also shared its Ligtas Christmas tips for a safe and healthy holiday season. Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa highlights three categories: Healthy Handaan, Healthy Celebrations, and Iwas Putok (Preventing fireworks from bursting).

Under the Healthy Handaan category, Filipinos are encouraged to follow the “Pinggang Pinoy” food guide, which provides easy-to-understand proportions of different food groups for each meal. This guide ensures that individuals meet the nutrient needs of different age groups and populations.

Similar to the HPA’s recommendations, Secretary Herbosa advises limiting the consumption of processed foods and those high in salt, sugar, and fat. He also emphasizes the importance of practicing food safety through proper preparation and storage.

For a healthy Christmas celebration, the DoH recommends wearing masks if experiencing colds, fever, or other flu-like symptoms. Secretary Herbosa also advises selecting safe and age-appropriate gifts that align with a child’s physical capabilities, mental and social development, and safety standards.

Lastly, to prevent fireworks-related accidents, Secretary Herbosa urges the public to avoid using firecrackers and to handle unexploded fireworks with care. Proper disposal should be done by transferring unexploded fireworks using a broom and dustpan or similar tools into a bucket of water.

By following these tips, Filipinos can enjoy a healthy and safe holiday season while reducing their risk of developing NCDs. Prioritizing health and well-being during festive celebrations is essential for long-term wellness.

Source: The Manila Times

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