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Healthy Holiday Eating

Holidays are a time for celebration with family – but also a time for sugary, unhealthy foods!  While its possible to indulge in your favorite comfort foods and seasonal treats, it’s important not to overdo it.   If you want to maintain or improve your health, it’s important to consider these healthy holiday eating tips.

Start with a Plan

“Think about how full you want to get.  Think about your favorite foods,” says Toni Havala, Registered Dietitian with Endeavor Health Weight Loss Clinic.  It’s important to go into a family gathering or meal with friends being intentional about healthy holiday eating.  This often means having to be selective about what foods are most important to you and which foods you might be willing to pass on.

Have a Light Snack Ahead of Time

Rather than starve yourself all day leading up to a big meal, Havala says it’s better to have a light snack, preferably something healthy such as fruits and yogurt, beforehand.  This will help limit the amount of unhealthy snacks you might snack on upon arriving, especially if the only snacks available are unhealthy ones.

Save the Alcohol for Dinner

“Drinking a couple of drinks before you sit down for your meal is definitely going to have you eating more than if you had waited,” says Havala.  Having more alcoholic drinks increases the caloric intake from the drinks itself but also impairs your ability to make healthy, smart choices.  Drink up – water that is – instead.  It keeps you hydrated which in turn boosts your energy level and keeps you from overeating.

Substitute Certain Side Dishes

It’s okay to keep the more meaningful entrees and sides that might be a family tradition.  However, pick dishes that you might be willing to substitute certain ingredients to make a little healthier with fewer calories rather than forego altogether.  For example, if you really need to have mashed potatoes, try using 2% milk instead of whipping cream or half and half or you might trade half of the potatoes for cauliflower as a healthier substitute.  Another example, when making a cake, substitute half cup of oil (about 960 calories) with half cup of apple sauce (52 calories).  “You still get that moistness without all the calories.”

Less is More

A simple measure that goes a long way is often just cutting back.  Still have butter with your rolls but use less, as is the case with the gravy.  Gravy is hard to substitute because the base ingredient is a fat.  So rather than either drowning everything in gravy or not using it at all, meet somewhere in the middle. When making items with eggs, such as stuffing, pull back on using as much.

Don’t Extend Holiday Eating Beyond the Holidays

While it may sound simple, it’s easy to prolong moderate unhealthy snacking into a more regular routine well beyond the holiday season, for weeks and even months.  When making a plan ahead of time for your holiday eating, plan when and how you might transition back into more regular food consumption.  Know that some holiday treats are just that and should be left for this special time of year and given up after New Years.

Here are some additional tips for healthy eating at home during the rest of the year.


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