Tips for healthy holiday eating

(ARA) – No one wants to be a killjoy during the holidays, but for those trying to stay healthy, holiday meals can provide a slew of unhealthy temptations. To look forward to these special days without completely sacrificing healthy habits, you need strategies that will help ensure you enjoy the holidays without regret.

‘The holidays should be enjoyed, but they are not a reason to abandon healthful eating habits,’ says Dr. Holly G. Atkinson, the medical editor-in-chief of and a health care professional with over 20 years of experience. ‘Balance and control are critical factors this time of year to make sure we don’t overindulge.’

Here are some strategies to help you stay healthy while enjoying holiday foods:

* Contribute a healthy option.

Offer to bring your own healthy option so you know at least one item won’t be fattening. It’s a thoughtful gift for the host or hostess, and it’s proactive on your part.

* If you fast, you will fail.

Fasting is a recipe for failure. Total deprivation actually leads to extreme hunger, cravings, and inevitably, overeating at mealtime. Stick to regular meal schedules full of good food choices. Start the day with a nutritional breakfast that includes a protein, like a cheese and veggie omelet, or a low-fat dairy choice, such as plain nonfat yogurt flavored with vanilla extract and sugar substitute.

* Leave the table.

When you’re at a party, don’t hang out by the food. Socialize in a different room if you can. Make the holidays about good company and conversation instead of seconds of stuffing and pumpkin pie.

* Use healthy ingredients.
Slight alterations in both ingredients and cooking methods can make favorite recipes healthier without sacrificing taste. For example, use reduced-fat cheese in appetizers and side dishes. Use low-fat yogurt, reduced-fat or fat-free sour cream for dips. Instead of a traditional candied sweet potato casserole, bake sweet potatoes in the oven until soft. Replace corn bread stuffing with wild rice stuffing. Use defatted chicken or turkey broth for basting instead of melted butter or margarines.

* Choose just your favorites.

If dinner is buffet style, be choosy. Decide on your favorites before you take any food and then choose only what you really want. For example, have a little more creamed spinach but skip the green bean casserole. Also, fill up on healthier options like turkey breast. As long as you don’t eat the skin, turkey is a healthy, lean protein choice.

* Don’t binge, but do indulge a little

Go ahead and have a small slice of traditional pumpkin pie, a few pieces of dark chocolate, or whatever family favorite you look forward to during the holidays. Trying to abstain totally from treats, not only during the holidays but in your everyday life, is a recipe for disaster. However, give yourself boundaries – have one treat food, and work it into your calorie allowance for the day.

* Make exercise a family activity.

Instead of just watching the football game on TV, get out and play a game of touch football together. Go for a walk after the big meal or play tag with the kids. If you’re traveling to visit family, don’t stop exercising. Take exercise DVDs with you or pack resistance bands in your luggage so you can continue to tone up on the road.

For more information on staying healthy through the holidays and all year long, visit

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