Healthy eating is possible during the holidays…by
Eating healthy during the holiday season can be difficult, but with a little planning, moderation during celebrations is doable.
Many of us have already begun a holiday season full of food. It is really wonderful to have celebrations to attend and have festive cookie platters and goody jars at every stop, but if this goes on for a full month, these treats can really add up. Let me say that I think that indulging during a celebration is not only normal, but even a good idea.
I just want to acknowledge that some of us have to limit how often these indulgences occur and give a few simple tips to help navigate a season of decadent eating.
Make a plan. Planning when it comes to food is the best way to prevent over eating. If you have three get-togethers in one day, eating everything at each stop is going to lead to stomach problems, if nothing else. You probably know what your favorites are at each gathering and may have been waiting a whole year to enjoy them again. Stick to small portions of your favorites. You will be satisfied since you got what you were waiting for, but will not be too full to eat at your next stop. If you are worried someone will be offended that you did not eat enough, just explain you have other stops and make a really big deal out of their best dish, whatever your favorite may be (another perk to that is that they will probably remember it is your favorite and be sure to always include it).
Eat before. It may seem counter-intuitive to eat before you go to a big meal, but if you skip meals in anticipation of a big meal you will usually consume even more calories by the end of the day. Eat breakfast and lunch or snacks depending on the time of the gathering. You should eat light, lower calorie foods if you are planning for a really heavy meal. Snack on veggies with hummus, a small salad with a hard boiled egg or an apple and a cheese stick for a healthy way to be hungry, but not ravenous.
Be active. During the holidays, as well as throughout the year, plan regular physical activity for yourself. Being active helps boost your metabolism. It can also be a fun way to spend time with your family and relieve stress, which seems to come with the holiday season. Even at the gathering it can be nice to get some fresh air and move around a bit. Keeping a practical pair of shoes in the car helps to facilitate impromptu walks, and getting out with a loved one is a great way to share a laugh or vent, depending on how the gathering is going.
Bring your own dish. I love potlucks and think it is always a great idea to offer to bring a dish when invited for a meal just to take a little of the workload off the host or hostess. If you have special dietary considerations this is especially helpful both for you and potentially for the host as well if they are aware of your dietary needs but unsure of how to meet them. Bringing one dish that is healthier, or at least healthier for you, ensures you will have at least one food to enjoy guilt free, and often others will enjoy it too, regardless of nutrition. These dishes can still be festive and tasty. There are many great ideas online, but some things to consider are vegetable trays with a couple of bell pepper cutouts (with cookie cutters) that reflect the holiday, fruit kabobs or a wild rice salad with colorful vegetables and dried cranberries.
Eating, like everything else, during the holidays should be fun. Following these steps can help make healthy holiday eating more attainable, while still being satisfying. Happy holidays!
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.