The holidays are filled with parties, food, and drinks galore. If you have a chronic condition like diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure, you'll need to take extra precaution when enjoying the festivities if you want to stay out of the hospital.

Here are 5 tips for staying healthy over the holidays.

1. Take a walk after meals.

A July 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association found that taking a walk after an evening meal lowered blood sugar levels. In fact, post-meal walks are more effective at lowering glucose than pre-meal or no exercise at all. Lowering glucose levels is especially important for people with Type 2 diabetes.

So if you don't mind the cold, put on your coat, gloves, scarf, and hat and go for a brisk winter walk. If cold weather is not your idea of fun, head to the mall and walk it off indoors. Make it a fun post-dinner activity and ask others to join.

2. Drink lots of water.

All the cells, organs, and tissue in your body need water to function, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When you're feeling thirsty, go for the water instead of drinks like soda, holiday punch, and alcohol.

Sugary drinks will raise blood sugar levels and can have several hundred calories in just one serving, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Source: American Diabetes Association

Limit alcohol, since too much alcohol increases your blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.

The recommended amounts to consume are one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. But if you already have a chronic condition, you should probably drink even less than that.

3. Get more sleep.

People who are sleep deprived eat 500 more calories a day, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions.

Chronic sleep deprivation could even lead to obesity.

For these reasons and more, the CDC considers lack of sleep a national health epidemic. Other health issues related to insufficient sleep include:

  • weight gain
  • increased stress
  • higher risk of disease
  • impaired judgment

If you have a chronic condition, you can't afford to increase your risk of other illnesses. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that adults get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

Schedule quality sleep time amidst the busy holiday season. Your health is worth it.

4. Control your portion size at meals.

The holidays are a time when special foods are prepared. And eating is a big social activity that should be enjoyed by all—just in moderation.

The Calorie Council estimates that the average holiday meal packs about 3,000 calories. That one meal is well over the US Department of Agriculture's recommended amount of 1,800-2,400 calories for adults for the entire day!

Some tips for healthy holiday eating:

  • Use a smaller plate to control portion sizes.
  • Before loading your dish, look at all the options. Save room for dishes you love and leave the dishes that aren't worth the calories.
  • Balance out heavy meals with lighter meals the following days.
  • Limit consumption of high sodium dishes like stuffing, mashed potatoes, and mac n cheese, if you have high blood pressure.

5. Be smart when taking leftovers.

While it may be tempting to pack up leftovers of all your favorite holiday dishes, some are very high in fat, empty calories, and sodium.

Leftovers to...

Take With You Leave Behind
Turkey Breast Stuffing
Brussel Sprouts & Collard Greens Mashed Potatoes
Kale Pecan Pie
Baked Sweet Potato (no added sweeteners) Mac n Cheese
Baked Ham (in moderation) Canned Cranberry Sauce

Source: US Department of Agriculture

Being selective about which leftovers to take will increase your chances of eating healthy when you get home and keep you on track with your New Year's resolutions.

An EIRMC physician can help you manage your chronic health condition during the holidays and throughout the year.