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Surviving holiday indulgences

December 12, 2012

By Marilyn Csernus, MS, RD, CDE
Nutrition & Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension Serving Boone, DeKalb, & Ogle Counties

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout the holidays doesn’t mean passing up all your favorite holiday treats and dishes. Abandoning yearlong attempts at eating healthy is not a wise plan, either. Often, if a pattern of overindulging starts early in the holiday season, it doesn’t end at New Year’s, but lasts long into the New Year.

With a little planning and mindful eating, we can enjoy favorite traditional holiday dishes and treats without sabotaging our health along the way.

The first step is to set realistic goals. For those working toward weight loss throughout the year, it may be more realistic to set a goal of weight maintenance, rather than weight loss. To accomplish this, it is important not to let regular physical activity fall by the wayside. During the holidays, physical activity is more important than ever to help balance out the extra calories often consumed at this time of year.

The holidays are not the best time to attempt drastic lifestyle changes. Energy is better spent on maintaining a balance in eating healthy, regular physical activity and enjoying the seasonal “goodies” in moderation.

Develop a “holiday game plan” by adopting some of the following tips for a happy, healthy holiday season.

1. Concentrate on friends and family, not just food. Conversation has no calories!

2. Use smaller plates when possible, and enjoy the food you choose by slowing down and paying attention to what you are eating, rather than thinking about the next bite.

3. Savor every bite and wait at least 10 minutes before heading back for more food. Give your body time to recognize it is no longer hungry.

4. Enjoy small servings of special holiday foods and forgo “everyday” foods and junk food.

5. Include fruits and vegetables on every plate.

6. Do not skip meals or go to a party hungry. This usually leads to overeating.

7. Keep healthy snacks such as bite-size fresh fruits and vegetables, lite yogurt or string cheese in the refrigerator.

8. Monitor intake of higher-calorie beverages such as alcohol, holiday punch and soda.

9. It’s OK to politely decline food offers when not feeling hungry.

10. Don’t maintain a stash of tempting holiday baked goods around the house. Share with co-workers, neighbors and family members.

11. Strive to maintain healthy meals leading up to the holidays.

12. Offer to bring a dish to the buffet or holiday meal, and make it a healthy choice.

13. Drink plenty of water.

14. Sit down while eating.

Remember, moderation is the key to making it through New Year’s Day without needing major New Year’s resolutions. Holiday weight gain often stays with us. Even if it is only a pound or two, it adds up over the years!

From the Dec. 12-18, 2012, issue

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