Eat and Be Healthy This Holiday Season

Food may be the centerpiece of many festivities, but the holiday season does not mean you have to pack on the party pounds. Smart planning and good choices can help balance cravings and eating during gastronomical celebrations.

“It’s not uncommon for people to gain five-to-10 pounds during the holidays,” said Natalie Castro, a registered dietitian with Baptist Health. “But you don’t have to deprive yourself. Instead of thinking about what you ‘shouldn’t’ eat, think of this time as an opportunity to try new things and then be selective about the items you choose. By avoiding the ‘I want eat everything mentality,’ and reaching for small portions of items you don’t have every day, you can still enjoy a variety of tastes.”

Whether going to holiday party or an office gathering where there will be lots of goodies, prepare ahead of time. If you arrive with an empty stomach, tempting food will be harder to resist. Instead, eat a little something like a small sandwich, yogurt, nuts or fruit before a party to take the hunger edge off, says Ms. Castro. Then, follow these tips to enjoy guilt-free tastes of the season:

Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

  • Scope out the food options first. Choose only items you really want to eat.
  • Before serving yourself, consider all the food options available. Start with the vegetable dish or salad. If there are several different potato dishes, for example, choose one or serve yourself small sample-size portions that would equal one full serving.
  • Pick and choose. If you want to enjoy your dessert, then skip a second serving of casserole.
  • Select a small, sample-size piece of pie or other dessert.
  • Choose water to drink with your meal. Liquid calories add up quickly. Some recipes for Eggnog can have up to 320 calories in just a ½ cup portion. Limiting or eliminating alcoholic beverages will also off-set extra caloric intake.
  • Maintain physical activity. Take a walk after dinner to burn off any extra calories eaten throughout the day. On days of holiday celebrations, increase exercise by going for a walk during lunch time.
  • Calorie-cutting Cooking Choices

    Buy better-for-you ingredients when cooking a holiday dish. If the recipe calls for high-fat, sugary or salty items, these substitutes will help curb calories and unhealthy items without changing the flavor of your favorite dishes:

  • Substitute 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg.
  • Use lower fat dairy products when possible. Choose a lower sodium broth.
  • Add chopped vegetables to traditional stuffing recipes and use quinoa instead of bread. When sautéing foods, spray the pan with cooking spray or be conscious of how much oil you add to it.
  • Skip the canned creamy soups and make your own sauce. Sauté chopped onions and garlic with a little olive oil; add mushrooms; then sprinkle with seasoning. Add 1 cup skim milk and cook on low heat. Thicken with flour, corn starch or dehydrated potato flakes.
  • “With a little modification, it’s easy to select and make a better-for-you meals that don’t compromise taste and satisfaction,” adds Ms. Castro. “Focus on choosing and making dishes from scratch that use as many fresh and natural ingredients as possible. Eat and offer roasted vegetables, such as squash, carrots, leeks and peppers, or a green leafy salad. And don’t forget a lighter option at the dessert table, such as freshly-cut fruit, berries or light sorbet.”

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