Monday, December 3, 2012

Tips for eating healthy during holiday season

First there’s Thanksgiving.

Turkey, pie, stuffing, cranberries, pie, ham, broccoli casserole, pie… the list of foods that add to the waistline drags on and on.

Now, a week removed from the first holiday of the holiday season, we’re in the early stages of a month-long engorging.

Parties are planned on every weekend, while those tins with three kinds of popcorn – cheese, caramel and butter – come out from hibernation.

And cookies. Oh, man, those cookies.

“It’s continuous for weeks and weeks,” said Carol Reeder, a registered and licensed dietician at Jennie Edmundson Hospital. “How do you get out of that rut?”

Reeder said unhealthy eating is a staple of the holidays – “We know we’ll eat more calories” – and the key is counteracting with physical activity.

“Get out and walk – we don’t have any excuses lately, we’ve had great weather,” she said.

Or go to the gym.

“It’s calories in, calories out. If you’re going to eat food high in calories – those holiday favorites – then you have to get out and burn those calories,” said Barb Fuller, a nutrition and health program specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who covers southwest Iowa.

Fuller noted treadmills, stationary bicycles and other cardiovascular machines as a good option, especially when temperatures drop. And if a person has room in their home, a workout video is a great way to trim calories.

At those holiday parties, if they’re potluck, Reeder suggested bringing a healthy dish – fruit, or a vegetable tray. Use fat free sour cream when combining a packet of seasoning for dip. Make sure salad dressings and gravy are on the side and limit portions to a tablespoon.

Vegetables and fruits, along with whole grains, are key.

“Try to make sure half your plate are those items,” Reeder said.

Fuller passed along these “top ten survival tips.”

- Eat a light, healthy snack before a party. This will help you curb your hunger and make better choices.
- Limit alcohol. Enjoy one alcoholic drink, and then switch to diet soda or flavored water.

- Bring a low-fat holiday dish to the party, maybe some fruit or raw veggies.

- Keep minimal baked goods on hand. Only bake enough to give away or use for one party.

- Eat a large salad or hot broth based soup before a meal. This helps keep you full longer.

- Substitute healthier ingredients, replacing or reducing fat and sugar in baked goods.

- Make a goal with a friend to lose five pounds or to maintain weight during the holidays. This way you have a valuable support buddy.

- Remember the holidays are truly only 3 days. This means if you blow it on those three days, you won’t cause much damage. It is the vicious cycle of not enough exercise and too many calories on the other days that cause weight gain through the year.

- Sign up for a 5K or a fitness walk or other event to keep you focused on physical activity.

- Finally celebrate and focus on what the holidays are really about - family and friends. Find creative activities or ways to get your family to play a game or be active instead of eating. Pick a time to get together that does not involve a meal.

“It all comes down to a little planning ahead and sticking to your goals,” Fuller said. “Not just saying ‘ahh, it’s the holidays I’ll eat all this and gain 10 pounds.’”

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