Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

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Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

The holidays are here and with them come over indulgence of every food and drink source (and perhaps a few others!).  Most of us will stress, shop and eat more this month than any other time of the year.  Although I can’t do much for your credit card bills (see Suzie Orman for assistance with that topic), here are some tips for enjoying the holidays without undoing your diet.

If you are like me, you look forward to holidays where all you have to do is show up to a party or event and eat.  No one expects me to cook and those who know me well greatly appreciate that I stay the hell out of the kitchen entirely, lest I ruin the hard work of others.  I can’t cook, so the holidays are a particular favorite of mine, since, again, my only job is to show up and eat.  This can prove difficult though, because I have no control at all over the meal options and as someone who is ragingly lactose intolerant sometimes it just plain sucks.  Years ago I was far more blazen in my commitment to eat anything I wanted, with age I have come to accept that dairy is not my friend and to make small changes in my diet.  The holidays make this commitment to sensibility even more challenging.

Can’t connect with that last part about just showing up to eat?  I have a tough life, huh?!  It’s probably because you are a fully functional adult capable of telling a colander from a measuring cup.  Good for you!  The down side is that someone likely nailed you down to bring a dish to your holiday get together because of these skills. Put those skills to work this season and try making a favorite recipe with a low fat take.  Soy milk is a great substitute for milk in many cases and your lactose intolerant friends will thank you.  Most guests won’t be able to taste the difference between regular cream cheese and reduced fat, so why not go with the healthier option?

When getting ready for gatherings, be sure to stay away from this popular pitfall.  Often people think they are doing themselves a favor by starving all day prior to a big meal.  Their logic is that if you shave off a couple calories here and there the morning of then you can go nuts during dinner.  Don’t do this!  Folks who go into meals really hungry tend to make less sensible decisions and are more likely to over eat during that meal.  Prior to heading out the door to a gathering or meal, have a light snack of healthier options, such as fruit.  You’ll still be hungry for dinner, but will make healthier choices in the end.

When you arrive at holidays and events, be prepared for the onslaught of "classic" dishes, such as Aunt Mary’s famous Jell-O mold, your ex-girlfriend’s Tofurky or your sweetheart’s macrobiotic mashed potatoes and gravy. The key to this game is portion size.  Although you may feel compelled to take a bite or two of everyone’s dish, so you can pass around the compliments over coffee/tea, pick only the dishes that you really enjoy.

This point goes hand-in-hand with the idea of putting together a balanced plate and picking thrillers over fillers. Make room for your favorites, but also include an equal amount of fruits and vegetables.  Start with a salad and vegetables, then move onto your heavy hitters like potatoes, meat, etc.  By the time you make it to your favorites, you’ll eat less but still be able to enjoy the foods you look forward to all year.

People talk endlessly about food throughout the holidays but often overlook the role alcohol plays in our diet. Alcohol = empty calories!  Not only is it empty calories, but keep in mind that alcohol is a depressant, so any stress or grief you are experiencing may be amplified after a night of drinking with friends or family. Enjoy in moderation, be safe and happy holidays!