Healthy Holiday Tips

Healthy Holiday Eating Tips
From the Hendricks Regional Health Dietitian Staff

Food is an important part of holiday celebrations. With each holiday, food traditions are formed. In planning for holiday meals and entertaining, keep in mind the health and well being of your family and guests, as well as yourself. The following tips may help you survive the holidays with your waistline intact!

  • Remember that the holidays are first and foremost about people. Focus on your loved ones rather than food.
  • Plan ahead. Eating healthfully will not just happen, particularly if this has not been your usual holiday practice!
  • Set health goals for your daily routine, but particularly over the holidays. Post them where you will see them often. Don’t forget to reward yourself if you stick to your goals, but don’t use food as a reward! Instead, buy yourself a holiday gift, or promise yourself some “me” time to spend any way you choose.
  • Step up physical activity during the holidays. Adding just 15 minutes of walking per day adds up to almost an additional 2 hours per week. Park in the farthest parking place when holiday shopping. Use hand weights when watching the news, or walk with friends while waiting on your kids during their activities.  
  • Wearing a pedometer can help you track your steps; it’s nice to see any increases “in black and white.”
  • Remember that the more you burn, the more leeway you have with what you bring in calorie-wise. Also, exercise is a great stress reducer for this hectic time of year.
  • Don’t try to diet during the holidays. A more realistic goal is to maintain weight rather than to lose it. Simply switching to this approach may take the pressure off of you.
  • Offer to host. Having more control over the menu will be worth the extra effort for many individuals.
  • If you aren’t the host/hostess, offer to bring a healthy item, such as a veggie tray with low fat dip or a fresh fruit salad.
  • Don’t approach holiday feasts after fasting all day. A light healthy snack will keep you from gorging.
  • Wear snug clothes instead of your loosest-fitting sweats! Your waistband will help you set limits.
  • Increase the fiber in your diet by eating more fruit, veggies and whole grains. More fiber means you will feel full longer, and may have an easier time saying “no” to seconds.
  • Never stand at a buffet or hors d’oeuvre table; take one or two items and move across the room to chat with someone. Food isn’t as tempting when you are across the room.
  • Keep something in your hands, which makes it more difficult to pick up additional food items.
  • Chew gum, especially if it’s sugarless.
  • Drink a glass of water or non-caloric drink before you eat; this will help make your stomach feel fuller.
  • Take your first trip through the buffet line without a plate. “Window shopping” allows you to decide which items you want most, and which items you can live without. If you decide that you would like a little of each item, than commit to taking a smaller portion of each.
  • Have you ever quickly polished off a large meal, only to realize later how miserable you are and that you would have been satisfied with far less? Try eating more slowly to allow your stomach to catch up with your mouth. Tricks to slow you down include setting your fork down between each bite, chewing each bite 20 times, or eating with your non-dominant hand or even with chopsticks!
  • Go easy on “the extras” such as butter or margarine, gravy or sauce.
  • Use smaller plates, bowls, and glasses so that your portions will look bigger.
  • Be a food snob. If you don’t love it, don’t take it.
  •  Keep in mind that beverages do have calories, but are not very filling. Set a limit on the punch, soft drinks, eggnog or alcoholic beverages, or the calories will add up quickly.
  • Alternate punch, soft drinks, eggnog or alcoholic beverages with water or diet drinks to keep calories down. Avoid indulging in mixed drinks. Mixers can contain a significant amount of calories. Lower calorie alternatives include light beer, wine, and wine spritzers. Also keep portion control in mind.  Some wine glasses can hold 1/3 of a bottle of wine! Also remember that consuming alcohol can lessen your inhibitions and your resolve to make good choices. On the other hand, dancing on the table does burn extra calories!  
  • Don’t overeat or take seconds just to please an insistent hostess.
  • Don’t use holidays and vacations as an excuse for weight gain.
  •   Alter favorite family recipes by reducing the fat, sugar and/or salt content. In most recipes, the amount of these ingredients can be reduced by as much as 1/3 to 1/2 without compromising the original ingredient.
  • If you feel you have overindulged, add some physical activity. It may be tempting to sit on the couch watching football all afternoon, but everyone would be better off going for a walk. Taking a group walk provides another opportunity to visit and catch up.
  • If your work place is filled with goodies during the holidays, set some ground rules with your co-workers. Which items will be kept around the office, and which items will be divvied up to take home? Can you establish one central location for the treats, which you can easily avoid? Can you bring in healthier choices to contribute to the mounds of food? Keeping healthier options at work makes it easier for everyone.
  • Pack a calorie conscious lunch for work that you love. That way you will be filled up and less likely to snack on treats around the office.
  • Keep lists of tasks that must be accomplished over the holidays, and don’t hesitate to cross off the items that really aren’t that important. Many times the stress of over-committing or leaving items for the last minute leads to poor food choices.
  • To avoid indulging in high fat fast food when your days are especially hectic, pre plan several quick, healthy meals, and have them available for reheating.
  • Try eating a healthy snack at the end of your work day or on your way home, especially if you plan to run errands on your way home.
  • Don’t disregard the calories from those Starbucks drinks you grab on the run while shopping. Some grande (medium) drinks contain as many as 500 calories!
  • If family gatherings themselves are stressful for you, practice relaxation techniques that you can call upon when everyone gets together. Remind yourself that you may only have to deal with some of these people a couple of times a year rather than every day!  
  • Maintain perspective: Overeating one day won’t make or break your eating plan. By the same token, don’t give yourself time off from your health goals for Halloween all the way through New Year’s!
  • Plan on NOT dieting for your New Year’s resolution. Anticipation of food restriction may set you up for binge-type eating over the holidays.
  • Try to get plenty of sleep throughout the holidays. Often we reach for food for energy when we are actually just sleep deprived rather than hungry. Plus, you can’t eat while you are asleep!

What Difference Does a Recipe Substitution Make?
Making a few simple substitutions can have a huge impact on the total calories and fat of a recipe, but not the resulting product. Try some of these substitutions to lighten up your favorite recipes.

Instead of this…   Substitute with this …  You can save …
 1 whole egg  2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute  42 calories, 5 grams fat
 1 cup whole milk  1 cup skim milk  65 calories, 8 grams fat
 1 cup sour cream  1 c. reduced fat sour cream  172 calories, 28 grams fat
 1 cup whipped cream  1 cup nondairy light whipped topping  256 calories, 87 grams fat
 1/4 cup butter for sautéing  1/4 cup broth for sautéing  530 calories, 59 grams fat
 8 oz. cream cheese  8 oz. nonfat cream cheese  585 calories, 80 grams fat
 1 cup heavy cream  1 cup evaporated skim milk  621 calories, 87 grams fat
 And the winner is …

 1/2 cup liquid vegetable oil  1/2 cup pureed fruit or fruit juice  1020 calories, 120 grams fat!!

Here are some other substitutions to try:
Instead of this …  Substitute with this …
Regular gelatin Sugar free gelatin or fruit juice mixed with unflavored gelatin
Light cream Evaporated skim milk
Canned fruit packed in syrup Water or juice-packed canned fruit
Regular mayonnaise Reduced-calorie or fat free mayonnaise or plain yogurt
Regular salad dressing Reduced-calorie or fat free salad dressing
Regular cheese Skim milk or reduced fat cheese
1 cup sour cream 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt or reduced fat cottage cheese or nonfat or part skim ricotta cheese plus 2 tsp lemon juice or 1/2 cup blended dry cottage cheese with 1 T. lemon juice, 1/4 t. onion powder and 1/2 cup skim milk
1 cup chopped nuts 1/2 cup toasted nuts (toasting brings out the flavor of nuts, so you only need to use half as much)
1 oz. baking chocolate 3 T. cocoa powder plus 1 1/2 tsp Lighter Bake (pureed prunes)