Suggestions for a healthier holiday
RED WING, Minn. -- There are several times throughout the year when people focus on losing weight -- just before their birthday, leading up to a wedding or important event, and a few months prior to bathing suit season.
But there's usually only one occasion when people forget about losing weight and simply concentrate on not gaining any. And that's the holidays.
Thanksgiving is long gone, so if you had a few too many slices of Grandma's famous pumpkin pie, relax and let it go. There's no reason to feel guilty three weeks later.
Instead, look ahead to Christmas. It's the second time in the span of about one month that people will gather for absurd amounts of food, and, most importantly, quality family time.
By Dec. 26, everyone regrets that fourth helping of stuffing, fifth buttered roll and sixth Christmas cookie, no matter how enjoyable they were the day before. To avoid feeling overstuffed -- and guilty, to boot -- prepare a plan beforehand. This will also help shed worries of weight gain and hopefully keep you from closing out 2012 with an extra 10 pounds on your hips.
Just say no
A lot of holiday foods can be tempting, which is why it's important to remember the phrase "mind over matter."
Aunt Joan may make the most delicious cheesy potatoes you've ever tasted, so you tend not to realize that they're loaded with fat and dripping with butter. You think you need to scoop up as many as you can before your cousins get to them, but the fact is, the dish will be there next year and for many years to come.
This isn't the last pan of cheesy potatoes on the planet. Think of it that way and it'll be easier to turn them down.
Also keep in mind that just because everyone around you is gorging themselves doesn't mean you need to follow suit.
"I think the key is to eat until you're satisfied, and not full," said Liz Knapp, a registered dietitian for Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing. "If you are eating, kind of pace yourself because you may tend to eat less."
Learn what's what
Something may seem healthful on the surface, but that doesn't mean that's truly the case. Sure, that green bean casserole has vegetables, but it also has creamy soup with all-too-high fat and sodium levels.
Try to learn exactly what's in the food you're eating so you know whether it's OK to dive in for seconds.
"Ultimately, just a general education of wellness is always very important for everyone," Knapp said.
Pay attention to things like antioxidants and good fats vs. bad fats. A bowl of almonds, pecans and peanuts will make an excellent pre-meal snack and offers healthful fats at the same time.
A tray of sliced fruits and vegetables provides another convenient appetizer with plenty of health benefits.
"Things with lots of colors -- they all have tons of antioxidants in them," Knapp said.
Consider volunteering to do the cooking for your family so you'll have ultimate control over the nutrition on the table come Christmas Day.
Holiday classics don't have to be eliminated. Just look for ways to make them as nutritious as possible. For example, you can continue your family's tradition of having a 20-pound turkey as the main dish, but don't get any fancy ideas about deep frying the bird.
"Baking, broiling and grilling are really the best cooking methods," Knapp said. Take the skin off the turkey before you eat it to make it even better for you.
Stuffing is also found in many holiday feasts, and it's another dish that can be altered with ease. Making it from scratch and tossing in some dried cranberries will add fiber, Knapp said. Also, using whole wheat bread is key.
"When you're choosing your foods during the holiday season or making recipes, try to continue to add whole grains to your diet," she suggested.
It may be too late for this year, but in the future try to keep up with healthy habits before and after the holiday season. If you stick to normal portions and maintain a nutritious diet on a regular basis, it won't be hard to stay in control on Christmas.
"Truly, it's what you do all year round so that one day isn't going to make a huge difference," Knapp said.