The holidays are often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year.
At the same time, winter is a season where people need to learn to resist the urge to graze over the party buffet and keep good health and nutrition in mind while participating in office potlucks and enjoying holiday snacks.
“It is important that you do not just say that it is the holidays so you can eat whatever you want and however much that you want,” said Brandi Binkley, director of health promotion at the Macon County Health Department.
Particularly if you want to shed some pounds for the New Year, make sure your expectations are realistic.
“I would recommend trying to maintain weight because you do not want the pressure of losing weight during the holidays,” said Kris Richman, registered dietitian at St. Mary’s Hospital.
The key is to maintain a balanced diet.
“A lot of times people neglect the vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, and choose the higher carb foods,” said Shanell Schulz, registered dietitian with the DMH Wellness Center.
This common problem has an easy fix.
“If you add more vegetables to your plate, you are less likely to consume cookies, cakes and pies,” Schulz said. For the main dish, choose baked or grilled chicken or shrimp instead of fried.
Here are some more tips for keeping your munching, and unwanted pounds, under control.
Recognize when you are full. “Be mindful of what you are taking in and make sure you realize that your eyes are bigger than your stomach,” Richman said. If you are at a buffet, only fill your plate once and try to find a table that is not hovering over the food to avoid temptation.
A little indulgence is OK but a lot can lead to weight gain.
“Keep everything to half a fist to help you control portions,” Schulz said.
If you have any health issues, discuss any dietary changes with your doctor.
“I use a plate method in class for diabetes where you draw a plate and split it in half — half should be vegetables, a quarter should be protein and a quarter should be grain,” Schulz said.
Meat is not all bad. “Lean meats are going to be the best and you can have beef as contrary to popular belief like sirloin or ground beef that is 90 percent or leaner,” Schulz said. Chicken breast, turkey, fish or pork chops are great and even some eggs and lean cheese are low fat and good sources of protein.
Not all sweets are bad. “There are sugar-free items people can use for replacements of desserts like Splenda in baking to reduce calories and carbohydrates,” Schulz said.
Adding fruit to a recipe can make it healthier and fruit salad with a little Cool Whip is a great option.
“Making something yourself rather than purchasing it can cut a lot of calories out,” Schulz said.
Try not to get carried away in the kitchen. “Make sure you are not snacking while you are cooking,” Richman said.
Know the contents of what you are putting together by doing a little research. “You can find recipes online with the nutrition facts,” Richman said.
If you are going to a potluck, bring something that you are OK going home with. If you are not a big fan of pies, do not bring one because you may be taking some home with you.
“I often suggest a fruit or veggie tray because everyone forgets about that and always brings casseroles and dips,” Schulz said.
It is also a good idea to bring something with a little protein. “You can bring a cheese tray with crackers since it is easy to assemble,” Schulz said. You can always dare to be different and bring a plant or floral arrangement to the office instead of something edible.
If you are strong-willed you may choose to eat beforehand where you have more control over what you consume and hold a beverage to keep your hands busy.
Stay hydrated. “Often we drink alcohol during holiday celebrations so it is important to drink lots of water and you can have a sugar substitute like Crystal Light or put different flavors like lime or lemon slices to flavor up the water a little bit,” Schulz said. Iced tea and coffee are other good low-calorie items.
Of course, if you ever have questions or concerns about nutrition, you can always meet with a dietician.
“It would be a good idea to meet with a dietician if you are a newly diagnosed diabetic or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure because a lot of times foods around the holiday season are high-sugar and high-fat items and you may not know how much you should be consuming,” Schulz said.
Whether you work with yourself, a friend or professional, it is possible to get through the holiday season without packing on pounds.