Make Holiday Meals Healthy Ones

Armen Hareyan's picture

With the holidays approaching, experts at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center (DFC) offer tips for preparing healthy meals, avoiding overindulgence at the table and making sure exercise is included in the busy holiday schedule.

Elisabetta Politi, DFC nutrition manager, recommended the following for a healthier holiday season.

--Don't try to diet during the holidays. Set a goal of trying to maintain your present weight. That way, you have a realistic goal. Allow yourself to indulge here and there, but don't go overboard.

--Pace, don't race. Pay attention to how quickly you eat and exactly what you eat and drink. Savor the flavor by eating slowly and choosing your food carefully.

--Remember that alcohol is packed with calories. Choose light beer and wine over mixed drinks. A holiday-sized mixed drink can have as many as 500 calories.

--Offer to bring a favorite low-calorie dish to holiday parties. This way, you will know there will be at least one "safe" choice available. Stand far away from buffets so you're not tempted to nibble constantly.

--Make the effort to continue a regular exercise program. Exercise will help keep extra calories away, and it can also reduce the stress of social events and family get-togethers.


--Don't go to a party on an empty stomach. Before going out, snack on protein, like chicken or cottage cheese. Protein satisfies and helps you eat less. "Some people have the idea that if they skip lunch, or don't eat all day, they can eat more later," says Politi. "But skipping meals means you're hungry, and your chances of overeating later are much greater."

--Keep an eye on portion sizes. In the heat of celebration, portion sizes can be excessive. Instead of eating a large amount of food, try to eat a large variety of foods.

--Don't let a hectic holiday schedule force you to eat fast food. Prepare and freeze several quick, healthy meals. That way, you have an option other than high-fat, fast-food meals.

--When the party is at your house, put low-calorie and fat-free salad dressings on the menu. Pack the table with flavorful vegetable dishes and make reduced-fat versions of your family's favorite traditional dishes.

--Make decisions about what you're going to eat. Weight management is all about moderation and making healthy decisions. "By focusing on portion control, by eating more mindfully and being more in touch with what you eat, you'll have good strategies to help you with weight control," says Politi. "Moderation, not deprivation, should be the key for the holidays."


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