Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, and so are the turkeys, pies and cakes.
Holidays are festive times filled with family and friends.
They also can take a toll on one’s health with the fatty, salty, and high-calorie foods that are everywhere.
During the holidays, a person may be tempted to disregard his healthy eating habits and indulge his taste buds.
Whether you are trying to stick to a weight loss program or follow a special diet, holiday meals and celebrations can test even the strongest willpower.
Taste or traditions don’t have to be sacrificed to stay on track.
The key is to be sensible and use moderation.
Mark Glen, a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic, stated it’s important to be realistic.
“Avoiding those less-than-healthy foods can lead to a deprived feeling, and then you may indulge to an extreme,” Glen said.
“But it’s equally important to be ever mindful of your food choices. This is true at holiday time, but it’s also true throughout the rest of the year.”
Head into the holiday season knowing that there will be many temptations. Be aware of the choices, and when possible, make healthy options available.
When preparing meals, small variations can make a big difference.
Here are some ideas from the Mayo Clinic and Coordinated School Health to help make the holiday meals healthier:
• Reduce the amount of fat you use in holiday recipes.
For example, replace whole milk with skim milk or half the oil in a recipe with applesauce.
Use fat-free versions of sour cream or cream cheese.
Your food now has less fat and calories but the same great taste and texture.
• Practice healthy cooking techniques to capture the flavor and nutrients of your food without adding excessive amounts of fat or salt.
Choose recipes that call for baking, broiling, roasting, steaming, braising, grilling, poaching or stir-frying.
Sauté vegetables and meat in water or broth instead of butter.
Trim all visible fat from meat before cooking and drain off all fat drippings after cooking.
Remove fat from soups, stews, sauces, and gravies by chilling and skimming it off.
• Add more fruits and vegetables to holiday meals.
Serve festive combinations such as marinated green beans with red pimento; green leaf or Romaine lettuce salad with red pepper strips, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes; or sautéed green and red peppers.
Alongside the pies or cookies, serve star fruit or red and green apple slices arranged in a wreath shape.
• Use whole-grain bread in stuffing and serve wild rice and whole-grain rolls.
Whole grains are a good source of fiber and, because they take longer to digest, make you feel full longer.
Plus, whole grain foods generally have less fat and fewer calories.
Try recipes that feature grains and grain products such as barley, cracked wheat, brown rice, or couscous.
• Enhance the color, taste and aroma of holiday meals by adding spices and herbs — such as basil, cilantro, parsley, curry or rosemary.
Top potatoes with chopped parsley, onion, garlic or chives.
Add a sprig of rosemary and garlic cloves to roasted turkey.
Top sweet potatoes with rosemary, sage or thyme.
• Celebrate the holidays on a handful of special days rather than the entire season, which can last for six weeks or longer.
• Don’t give up the family favorites, but enjoy them in moderation.
Have a few cookies or your favorite treat periodically, but not every day.
Ask yourself if you really need that second or third treat. Remind yourself that those calories go “on” a lot easier than they come off.
• Choose foods wisely at buffets and dinner parties.
Raw fruits and vegetables, with a small amount of dip, are good choices.
Boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce or lemon is also a good option.
Limit the number of high-calorie foods — such as rich desserts or fried appetizers. Select only a few items that you really want and enjoy a small portion.
To curb appetite and avoid overeating, eat a small, low-calorie snack before starting on the buffet or dinner.
• Balance out the added calories with extra exercise.
Join a neighbor for a brisk walk.
Ride an exercise bike or walk on a treadmill while watching TV.
Walk up the stairs instead or taking the elevator.
Park in the far corner of the parking lot.
Short doses of exercise add up, and varying activities makes it easier to keep doing them.
• Enlist the family’s support for a healthier holiday by taking food off center stage.
Think of nonfood ways to celebrate, such as sledding, skating, singing or watching a movie.
Coordinated School Health wishes each and everyone a very happy Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
Remember the health tips and enjoy.
For questions or comments, contact your school’s nurse or call 644-3916.
MELISSA HOLLINGSWORTH is a registered nurse, the Henry County School System’s family and community coordinator and nurse at Lakewood School. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.