Sweet Swaps for a Healthier Holiday

By: JANE SCHWARTZ

The holidays can be a treacherous time for keeping a healthy diet in check. With iced cookies and rich eggnog at every turn, it takes a savvy strategy to navigate through the sugar and saturated fat danger zones at holiday parties.
Not to worry, Get Fit Get Life has some easy tips for making it to the new year without those few extra pounds. You may be surprised because it’s not all about cutting calories. While that’s important for many, there are some smart food choices you can make to improve your health and manage your weight without depriving yourself at the next holiday party and into the new year.
Practice portion control
Go for bite-sized. This trend in treats is perfect for portion control if you make sure that you stick to the suggested serving. In a GFGL interview a Weight Watchers member offered a helpful suggestion. Take a bite of everything if there are a lot of tasty-looking treats at a holiday party. One bite of, say, five different treats won’t ruin your mission to eat healthy, and you’ll still get to indulge.
Eat your veggies
The member of Weight Watchers added that fruits and vegetables are highly encouraged (all year long). When it comes to the season’s festivities, you should bring a vegetable and fruit tray. Then you’ll feel safe when you get there. The nationwide group has lists of holiday recipes on its website that no one would ever suspect are diet-friendly.
Laura Feinblum, a registered dietitian offering nutrition counseling services in New York, agrees that a smart option for holiday parties is to bring fruit rather than another high-calorie dessert. Feinblum cautions to avoid unknown dips that may be sky high in saturated fat and calories.
Imbibe with caution
Who can escape the season without sipping a hot cocoa or peppermint mocha latte? Enjoy these specialty drinks in no more than 12 ounce servings to make sure you’re not going overboard. Be sure to choose skim milk to decrease the calories you consume. Ask for a small dollop of whipped cream if you can’t dream of a hot drink without it. For major coffee chains, you can find nutrition information online including total calories, fat, and sugar content.
As far as the cocktails go, limit yourself to just one per day. Being drunk or tipsy means “all control goes out the window,” as Feinblum puts it. She adds, “wine or light beer has fewer calories than mixed drinks including eggnog.” Go for mocktails instead, or mix up a spritzer. Simply stir sparkling water into juice, wine, or what-have-you, and add a fresh squeeze of lime or a couple of cherries to garnish it.
Stay on track
Plan to exercise the day of and the day after a party to keep a health-conscious mindset. Eat a normal, balanced breakfast and lunch the day of a holiday celebration. “The most misguided thing to do is to ‘bank’ your calories,” says Feinblum. “It usually backfires, because once you reach the party you’re famished and you overdo it on high-calorie appetizers.” The key is to eat healthy meals throughout the day so you feel satisfied and energized, not focused on food, when you are at the party.
Feinblum offers options for a healthy holiday meal plan that will do the trick.
Breakfast Options:
  • Veggie omelet with a slice of whole wheat toast
  • 2 hard boiled eggs and a cup of melon
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt with a cup of berries

Lunch Options:

  • Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread
  • Vegetable, black bean, or lentil soup or vegetable chili
  • Big mixed green salad with carrots, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and lean protein (turkey, kidney beans, tofu, grilled chicken, or a hard boiled egg) to anchor it, dressed with olive oil and vinegar

After these meals you will be ready to celebrate in a healthy fashion.
Perhaps most importantly, remember to enjoy time with friends and family and focus on the reasons that you’re celebrating. If you overdo it at one Christmas dinner, you haven’t sabotaged your efforts, so don’t bombard yourself with guilt. Simply approach the next day with a healthy, positive outlook and a little exercise, and then move forward. Feinblum encourages her clients to not just throw in the towel and wait until Jan. 1 to start dieting. “You’ll do more damage from Dec. 26-31 than if you just get going again Dec. 26,” says Feinblum. With these tools and tips, you’re sure to make it to the new year with health, happiness, and jeans that still fit.

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Categories: Home, Sections, Your Nutrition

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