Twelve Days of Seasonal Health

Holidays can be a time for bringing a focus to healthy eating and activity.
Twelve Days of Seasonal Health - Articles


Homemade Granola with Peaches

Pinpoint 12 days of the season and try these ideas for incorporating health in the gifts you give, the recipes you prepare, and in your daily choices of activities, meals and snacks!

Give yourself, your friends and family the gift of health this holiday season! Try these ideas and resources to balance holiday food and fitness or create your own ideas. Incorporate one idea for fitness and one idea for healthy nutrition on each of 12 different days during the month - you choose the activities and the days. For holiday treats, try making something that offers more nutrients for the calories, but still offers that special holiday appeal. Finally, choose gifts for others that encourage a healthy lifestyle - let them know you want them to be around for many health-filled years to come!

Ideas for Fitness:

  • Go up and down the stairs 5-10 times as able - do a reindeer stretch at the bottom!
  • Walk 20 to 30 minutes (all at once or two shorter sessions!) - bring a friend for fun!
  • Do stretching for 20 minutes - reach for the mistletoe!
  • Order a free "Exercise and Physical Activity" book and "Workout to Go" pamphlet at the National Institutes of Health Go4Life website (strength, aerobic and stretching exercises)!
  • Put on your upbeat music and move, dance or even clean house with vigor!
  • Do 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous cardio exercise.
  • Carry boxes of decorations, one by one, down from the attic.
  • Carry boxes of decorations, one by one, up to the attic!
  • Gather with friends, children or grandchildren and have each person lead everyone in their favorite exercise or dance move; or take a hike, and take along a mobile treat from Penn State's Hike for Health recipes.
  • Sign up for a trial session at a fitness center or gym - try out a water aerobics, fitness, yoga or spin class.
  • When you go to the mall, walk the entire mall before you shop!
  • Search for free fitness classes online - try a walking video for starters. Check out ACE-Fit Fitness Library - American Council of Exercise for videos, illustrations and other information.

Ideas for Healthful Eating:

  • Try fun and innovative recipes for the family from the National Institutes of Health at NIH Fun Family Recipes.
  • Go to American Heart Association Smart Substitutions to see ideas on preparing healthier meals and snacks for your whole family and tips on choosing restaurant meals.
  • Make some walnut butter for serving or gifts. Toast 3 cups of walnuts at 350 degrees F. for 8-10 minutes. Blend walnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add 3 Tbsp. of maple syrup, 1/8 teaspoon salt and a dash of cinnamon. Continue processing about 5 minutes, until almost smooth. Spread on toast with slices of green apple on top. Store walnut butter in the refrigerator.
  • Granola - buy some old fashioned oats, vegetable oil, honey, and a variety of raw nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Find a recipe for homemade granola - it's a quick holiday treat for the family or for a gift. Add the dried fruits to the oat/nut mixture after the toasting step to keep them from drying out. Vary the nuts and seeds you use - walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seed and flax offer a nice twist! Here is a sample recipe.
  • Pull in the family to make a batch or two of bagels - whole grain, seeded or oat! Find recipes at websites of yeast and flour companies, or in a cookbook from the library.
  • Try a dark chocolate "Decorated Bark" Christmas treat - gently heat 9 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips over boiling water or in the microwave and pour into an 8-inch square pan lined with parchment or waxed paper. While warm, top with a sprinkling of your choice: chopped nuts, seeds, coconut, and dried fruit. Refrigerate until firm. Turn out and break into pieces. Suggested Holiday Topping Mix: ¼ cup dried cranberries, ¼ cup roughly chopped pistachios, and 1 Tbsp. coconut, shredded or flaked. Here is a sample recipe.
  • Find a free online book of nutrition activities and cooking experiences for the family at Penn State 101 snack time ideas.
  • Check Penn State's Nutrition, Diet and Health Latest News Section at for timely health information articles


  • Give gifts that encourage activity - sports equipment, balls, hula hoops, self-propelled riding toys, bikes and trikes, badminton/tennis sets and other active games; fitness monitors or short term gym or fitness center memberships and even salsa, tango or ballroom dance lessons!
  • Give gifts that encourage healthful eating - a fruit soft-serve maker (uses frozen fruits to make fruit soft-serve), a blender/smoothie maker, a box of easy-peel clementine tangerines, a high quality water bottle for year 'round hydration, fresh or dried fruit and nuts to fill stockings, coffee or tea selections.

Keeping health at the forefront during the holiday season can be fun and improve everyone's outlook for the coming year!