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Monday, Dec. 4, 2017

HealtHy Holiday tips

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Enjoy holiday meals without extra weight gain

The average American gains about one to two pounds during the holidays. Even scarier, the less dramatic the weight gain, the more likely it is to stay and accumulate long-term. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, but most people overdo it with the copious amounts of food eaten over several days. There are smart ways to enjoy your holiday meals without the extra weight gain.

Many people tend to prepare for large holiday feasts by fasting for the entire day leading up to the meal. This leads to overeating later in the day, and eating even more than you may have originally intended. Make sure to eat before your holiday meal and include breakfast in the morning, even if it is a very light meal. Breakfast helps kick-start your metabolism and can keep you from eating too much at a holiday gathering.

When building your plate at your holiday meal, try to use a smaller plate if available. A 9-inch plate is suggested, as it helps control portion sizes. As you scan all of the food options in front of you, brainstorm ways to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Luckily, there are a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables that make their way into holiday menus, so try to incorporate these into your meal. It may even help to fill half of your plate with these foods before heading to the entrees and other side dishes. When you sit down to eat, make sure you have a glass of water by your plate, and make it a goal to finish your water before you finish your meal. Also, eat slowly. It can take about 20 minutes for your brain to tell your stomach that you are full, so eating slowly helps you to recognize when you are full before it is too late.

Holiday parties can be an easy way to eat entirely too many calories, even if you weren’t hungry to begin with. First, do not leave your house hungry before going to a party. It may help to eat a snack. Munch on a fresh fruit or vegetable before heading out the door. While you are at the party, drink a glass of water before you visit the food table, then allow yourself one small plate of snacks. Scan the table before deciding what to eat, and only put items you really want on your plate. Choose two or three of the less healthy dishes and fill the rest of your plate with more nutritious foods. If fruits and vegetables are an option, incorporate these into your spread. If you’re concerned about healthy foods being available at the party, offer to bring a dish. Once you are done filling your plate, make sure to sit or stand away from the food table. The more you see tasty food, the more you will want it. Standing near the food table can also lead to mindless tasting, which adds up over the course of a party.

Eating healthy during the holidays may seem like a mind game because it often can be. Naturally, you will want to eat all of the delicious seasonal treats, and you can, in moderation. Don’t skip out on your aunt’s homemade fudge that she only makes once a year, or your Grandma’s famous Christmas cookies. Enjoy these treats, but in small amounts.
Eat one cookie instead of four and ask for a smaller portion of fudge. While you are eating, focus on taking smaller bites and take the time to appreciate the rich flavors of your food.

Eat slowly and without the distraction of your cell phone or TV. Also, large holiday meals can still be enjoyed occasionally. Make sure you are celebrating a holiday, not a “holi-week,” or “holi-month.” Gain-ing an extra pound or two won’t happen overnight from one large holiday meal, but weight gain will happen if several days of the month consist of large meals and extra calories from Christmas party snacks. Bal-ance and moderation are key to a healthy diet, and they are still important during the holiday season.
Most importantly, remember the true reason for the season. The holidays are meant to celebrate faith and en-joy the company of your friends and family. Don’t make food the main focus. Instead, make it a point to spend quality time with your friends and family and catch up with loved ones you haven’t seen in a while. Big meals are a great way to gather family together, but the purpose isn’t to eat — it’s to enjoy your time with the ones you love.

Abigail Scallan is an assistant extension agent (general nutrition) for the LSU AgCenter. Her main focus is adult nutrition education and promotion in Caddo and Bossier parishes. She can be reached at apscallan@agcenter.lsu.edu.
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