Purdue Nutrition Expert: Plan Ahead for Healthy Holidays

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Nutrition Planing for Holidays

When families get together for the holidays, they tend to eat foods high in calories and fat, but a Purdue University foods and nutrition expert says that's not necessarily wrong.

"If people look forward to and really enjoy the foods common this time of year, they should relax and enjoy them," says associate professor Olivia Bennett Wood. "Some of these traditions are very strong in families, and people need to recognize they have a choice not to break with tradition for one or two meals per year."

But for those watching their weight, the six weeks from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day can be a time to dread. Wood says the best way to enter the season is to have a plan. For example, adding 10 to 15 minutes to an exercise routine, or extra thought to holiday meal planning, can prevent weight gain. Also, before attending a party or dinner, take time to eat small, nutritious snacks to prevent eating on an empty stomach at the party, she says.

"With these simple game plans, people can be more conscious of their nutritional habits during the festive season," Wood says. "Let hors d'oeuvres be your meal, and let the early party be supper. Take a selected item and move away from the table of food. Also, be aware of unconscious eating while near food. Don't be the person who reaches unconsciously into the peanut dish all night."

When planning a holiday meal, the host needs to remember there are some guests who are watching their weight. Provide some foods that are lower in calories, such as fresh vegetables with or without a dip, sparkling water, diet sodas and fresh fruit.

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"Don't be a food or alcohol pusher," Wood says. "Don't equate the amount eaten at your party with whether it's a success."

An elegant approach versus a multiple food approach will dress up a party and help guests get into the holiday spirit.

Some simple nutritional ideas are:

  • Spend the money normally used for multiple food items to set an elegant table.

  • Splurge for fresh flowers and a good bottle of wine.

  • Bring out the best dishes and light the candles.

  • Plan one special entr
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