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Healthy Eating During the Holidays

by on December 23, 2012 8:09 AM

As we all know, many traditional foods served at holiday meals can be loaded with unwanted fat and calories. Many of us look forward to eating these special foods, but eating liberal portions makes it easy to pack on the pounds. So what’s a health-conscious person to do?

One option is to more often choose those traditional foods that are lower in fat and calories. Examples include: sweet potatoes, winter squash, broccoli, carrots, green beans, apples and pears. Eating salad at the start of a meal is also a good idea. Research shows that eating a small vegetable salad before your meal helps you to consume fewer calories overall. And there is nothing wrong with offering (or offering to bring) healthy appetizers like veggie trays or light desserts for your family and friends to enjoy at holiday gatherings.

Another way to make healthier holiday choices is to lower the fat and calories in traditional holiday recipes. For example, you can use two egg whites in place of one egg to reduce cholesterol, yet produce the same cooking result. Or use low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth instead of milk in your mashed potatoes to add flavor and lighten the fat. Sliced almonds also make a delicious alternative to fried onion rings as a casserole topping. As far as desserts go, substitute applesauce for oil, margarine or butter in muffins and quick breads like banana bread. For dips, sauces and pie toppings, use non-fat yogurt, sour cream or whipped topping instead of their full-fat counterparts.

If you’re unable or unwilling to make substitutions for a particularly indulgent holiday food, go ahead and enjoy it, but be mindful of your portions. Use smaller plates, if available.

Finally, remember that beverages — alcohol, eggnogs, ciders and punches, for example — contain calories that can add up quickly. Choose low- or no-calorie beverages when possible to satisfy your thirst, and consume other beverages in moderation.

For more tips on eating right and maintaining a healthy weight during the holiday season, visit mountnittany.org, or go to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website at eatright.org.

Michele D. Rager is a clinical dietitian at Mount Nittany Health.

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