Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Healthy Holiday Eating

You made it through the Halloween parties, but what about Thankgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, and New Years festivities. Starting in November, I get more questions regarding how to not gain weight when you have to attend parties and functions. Is it possible to stay fit and healthy when surrounded by foods high in fat, sugar and calories and still enjoy the pleasures of holiday eating and events? Yes, it is possible. You can eat your cake while maintaining a healthy weight – it’s all about moderation and attitude. Be positive - don’t let your food cravings control you. Consider these 10 tips for enjoying the holiday season.

1. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine to help offset increased holiday eating. Go to the health club and take an exercise class. Use the treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical machine. Learn how to use the weight machines or free weights. Walk or jog for 15 minutes twice daily with friends, family or co-workers. Remember exercise time accumulates – two 15 minute workouts are equivalent to one 30 minute workout.

2. Don't skip meals. Starving yourself before a party increases the risk of overeating. In addition, the temptation to eat higher fat and higher calorie food choices intensifies. Before a party, eat a piece of fruit, a box of raisins, a small carton of non-fat or low-fat yogurt, or a string cheese so that you are not famished when you arrive.

3. Eat fiber rich foods first so that you will feel full from "healthy foods" as opposed to refined starches which can cause a plummet in blood glucose (sugar) levels and turn into a never ending hunger cycle. Examples of high-fiber foods are fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

4. If you're hosting a party, make sure you offer your guests plenty of vegetables instead of chips and junk food. Reduce the fat in holiday recipes. There are plenty of low fat and low calorie substitutes you can use as replacements that taste just as good as the original. Try using applesauce in place of oil in your favorite holiday breads or cookies; use egg substitutes in place of whole eggs; try plain nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream. By replacing yogurt for sour cream you will save 40 grams of fat and 290 calories in one cup.

5. Offer to bring a low calorie dish to holiday parties, that way you’ll know there will be something safe available that you would enjoy eating.

6. Eliminate or limit high-caloric beverages such as sodas, juices, smoothies, blended coffee drinks and alcohol. There are almost 150 calories in one 12-ounce can of soda or juice. Instead, choose diet sodas or water that are calorie free. Liquors, sweet wines and sweet mixed drinks contain approximately 150-450 calories per glass. If you choose to drink, select wines and light beers, and use non-alcoholic mixers such as water and diet soda. Limit your intake to 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per occasion. Remember that alcohol increases appetite and lowers inhibitions.

7. Eat more of the roasted turkey, chicken or salmon, which is naturally lower in fat and calories, and less of the gravy, stuffing and a second piece of pie. Alternatives such as cranberry sauce and fat-free frozen yogurt can help you enjoy your meal and help keep calories down.

8. Send the leftovers home with your guests.

9. Eat slower - this will assist with consuming less while feeling full and satisfied at the same time.

10. Plan on not dieting after the New Year. Anticipation of food restriction sets you up for binge-type eating over the holidays. Besides, restrictive diets don’t work in the long run. They increase anxiety, depression, food preoccupation, binge eating, loss of lean body mass vs. fat, and makes weight re-gain more likely.

Although food is a big part of the holiday season, it doesn’t have to be the focus. Focus more on spending time with family and friends in addition to the tastes of holiday foods. And remember, overeating one day will not cause you to gain weight. It takes days of overeating and if you over indulge at the holiday meal, put it behind you and focus on returning to prior healthy eating habits the next day without guilt. Have smaller portions of all of your favorite foods and, remember, moderation is the key.

Happy Holidays!

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