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Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

November 13, 2015

Healthy Holiday Eating

The holiday season is officially underway! Dinners, parties, family gatherings, and special treats at work are just a few of the ways in which we indulge. Let’s face it: celebration with food is a huge part of our culture and during the holidays it’s no different. And we don’t celebrate with fruit salads and lightly steamed veggies. Hey, we go big with our rich gravies and cheesy foods, creamy casseroles, dressings, decadent desserts, and chocolate candies.

There is some disagreement among food researchers as to how many calories the average Thanksgiving meal provides. Is it 6,500, 2,500 or 4,000 calories? Well, what we do know is that if we are not mindful, we can indeed pick up a few extra unwanted pounds. As a nutritionist, I have listened to many an individual, “Oh, I’ll get on back on track in the New Year.” or “I fell off my wellness program and gained 8 pounds since Halloween.” Does this sound familiar?

Consider this mindset, “Treat yourself, don’t cheat yourself.” It’s all about a balance between mindful indulgence and mindless overindulgence. We also need to be reasonable about our wellness expectations. Now is not the time to embark on a new program, especially one that focuses on weight loss. If you are someone who has a tendency to struggle this time of year, here are a few healthy holiday suggestions to help you maintain a sense of balance with your wellness program.

  • Keep it moving: Try to be as active as much as possible and limit your time being a couch potato. Remember, movement is a sure way to burn calories and rev up your metabolism. Take time to go for a brisk walk around your community with family and admire the beautifully decorated homes. This could become a family tradition after a holiday feast. After dinner, put on some tunes and have the younger ones share some of the latest dances. Have a fun 20-minute dance off. Or maybe you can buddy-up with a friend and try something fun like ice-skating at your local ice rink. These are great ways to create special memorable moments as well.

  • Choose your beverages wisely: Whether it is a cocktail, hot chocolate with heavy cream and marshmallows, or eggnog, the calories certainly can add up. If you should decide to indulge, choose to have one or two “heavy” drinks and buffer with “lighter” beverage choices. Try alternating with spa water. This way, you save on unnecessary calories and stay hydrated. 

  • Maintain your meal schedule: Sometimes, we have the mindset that skipping meals all day to save up for the party is a great way to limit calories in. Well, it’s like going shopping on an empty stomach without a grocery list. The likelihood is that you will overindulge because you have starved all day. Be sure to eat something light before attending the event. You can partake in the festivities and enjoy while avoiding feeling stuffed.

  • Modify your recipes: If you or your family members have special dietary concerns such as high blood pressure or diabetes, look for recipes that modify traditional ingredients. You can greatly reduce sugar, sodium, and saturated fat by making just a few changes and maintaining flavor. Your loved ones will be happy that you considered their health. 

  • Be selective and balance your plate like a scale: For every rich and calorically dense food you choose, find one that is lighter in comparison. Try pairing a salad topped with a clear dressing. Look for other less rich and simpler side dishes. If you find that your plate has one too many rich foods, simply choose to eat lighter at your next few meals.

  • Enjoy dessert time: Mindfully savor each morsel of your favorite dessert. Remember that grandma’s pecan pie could be loaded with an easy 500 calories a slice, so maybe consider sharing it with a family member. 

Remember why you and your family are gathering. Allow fellowship with your family and friends to represent the entrée, and the food the side dish. Before digging in to your celebratory meal, allow time for everyone present to share thankfulness for one another. Be healthy, safe, and thankful this holiday season!