SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — It’s that time of the year again when desserts and baked goods are paramount, so is it even possible to stay healthy while still enjoying those festive goodies?

Experts say yes. In fact, to be healthy, you don’t need to hit the gym every week or only eat salads. It’s about your mindset.

It’s okay to eat that extra slice, but make it up

Staying healthy doesn’t mean you can’t eat desserts or fast food, it means moderation and calorie-in-calorie-out, and exercise. While junk food tends to have less nutrition and higher sugar/fat content, you can still have that pie or cookie or hamburger, but don’t forget to eat your vegetables and fruits and get a little more exercise to make up the extra added calories.

According to Healthline, it’s better to eat that junk food and make sure to also get your greens because by thinking one type of food is “good” and another is “bad” it can create an unhealthy relationship with food.

One study found an all-or-nothing approach to dieting was associated with weight gain and overeating; whereas another study found that restrictive dieting was associated disordered eating, anxiety, and depression.

The most successful diets are those of 80%/20% dieting, meaning 80-90% of your calories should come from whole or minimally processed foods and 10-20% should come from anything you choose: chocolate, pie, burgers, etc.

So, have that extra apple pie. You deserve it.

Take frequent walks

Walking is often considered the healthiest exercise and it can be done at nearly any age. According to the Mayo Clinic, a simple brisk walk could help you live a healthier life. By walking often, you can maintain a healthy waste line, prevent conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, strengthen your bones, improve immune function, reduce stress, and more. Plus, if you’re adding 30 minutes of brisk walking to your daily routine, you could potentially burn an extra 150 calories each day.

Many experts still say to walk 10,000 steps per day (which can be broken up throughout the day), but this isn’t a one-size-fits-all routine. In fact, a Harvard study involving more than 16,000 older women found that even walking 4,400 steps per day greatly reduced dying prematurely. On average, 4,400 steps is about 44 minutes, which, again, that 4,400 steps can be broken up. Take 10 minutes to walk in the morning–that’s around 1,000 steps. Take another 10 at lunch and maybe 20 in the evening. Suddenly, you’ve reached nearly 4,400 steps.

You’re probably not drinking enough water

Most Americans are not drinking enough water for their bodies, especially older adults since they often don’t sense thirst as much as younger individuals (and that could be bad for older adults because some medications cause fluid loss).

According to the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report, the benefits of water to your body are:

  • carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells
  • flushing bacteria from your bladder
  • aiding digestion
  • preventing constipation
  • normalizing blood pressure
  • cushioning joints
  • protecting organs and tissues
  • regulating body temperature
  • maintaining electrolyte (sodium) balance.

If you’re not getting enough water, you may impair your physical performance, says Healthline, so even if you’re exercising, you won’t get the same benefits as you would if you were hydrated.

Experts say to drink consistently throughout the day and about half your body weight in ounces.

Your mind matters, too

If you’re stressed over the holiday season–it’s okay. Give yourself a break from whatever is bothering you, even if that means stepping away from family or work. If there is something stressing you out that’s out of your control, the Dalai Lama suggests letting it go.

It’s also equally important to be okay with stress when it does happen. Face circular thoughts head-on rather than back away from them. Consider mindful meditations (some can be as little as 3 minutes!) and breathing exercises. UW Medicine says that meditation not only helps stress, but it can strengthen memory, learning, attention, and self-awareness while helping to calm the sympathetic nervous symptom.

The holidays are a special time to be with family, so have some pie and take a neighborhood walk with the family. You’ll be healthier for it.