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How to Have a Green Christmas

Eco-friendly strategies for making the holidays healthier for you -- and the planet.

Fresh vs. Artificial Christmas Trees continued...

No live tree is hypoallergenic, and the Christmas decorations you put on them, especially heirlooms that have been used for many years, may be covered with dust, which also can irritate people with allergies.

On the other hand, Lilienfeld says, artificial trees are made with petroleum -- a nonrenewable resource -- and the manufacturing process often involves dioxins, a highly toxic, cancer-causing chemical that accumulates in the fatty tissues of humans and other animals.

They also lack the evergreen fragrance that signifies Christmas for many people. Buying a fresh tree may eliminate the need for scented candles, incense, and other overpowering fragrances that can bother people with allergies -- as well as those without. And because most Christmas trees are grown on farms, harvesting them does not disturb forests.

As for disposing of the trees, the National Christmas Tree Association and Earth 911 operate a web site that directs you to the nearest of nearly 4,000 locations nationwide that will accept your tree.

A Green Christmas Feast: Moderation Is Merrier

The choice between a fresh or a frozen turkey poses a similar dilemma. Fresh turkeys have no added hormones, but neither do frozen turkeys because the federal government prohibits administering growth hormones to poultry. Free-range turkeys may be raised without antibiotics, but the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service requires that all turkeys given antibiotics be kept alive long enough for the drugs to pass completely out of the bird's system.

If you want to make your meal more organic, you might be better off choosing lots of organic vegetables.

When it comes to holiday meals, what's most important for your health is moderation. If you don't eat too much turkey -- or anything else, for that matter -- you'll probably do more for your health than any free-range or organic bird ever could.

"Most people gain about a pound or more this time of year because of all the holiday food and cheer," says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, WebMD's director of nutrition. "If you don't want to gain another notch on your belt, try shaving a few calories wherever you can without denying yourself the joy of holiday food and festivities. Moderation is the key. Be picky at the buffet table, forget about second helpings, and when it comes to those decadent desserts, eat only a sliver or share with a friend.  Do everything you can to stay active and keep up your exercise to thwart those extra pounds."

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