Local experts weigh in on holiday eating

Thomas Garcia

As the holidays approach we know all too well the lingering thought of eating too much and gaining weight.

With the holidays comes a family feast which includes main courses such as turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and let’s not forget those devilish desserts.

With this in mind, we should remember there are no such things as good or bad foods, only good and bad eating habits.

A healthy diet consists of properly portioned foods including grains, vegetables, fruits and lean meats, said Alice Johnson, Quay County Extension Service nutrition educator.

Johnson said during the holiday people should eat fewer foods that contain high levels of fat or sugar. She said people should eat more fruits and vegetables that contain fewer calories and more nutrients.

So with the holiday meals just around the corner, what can you do to keep from overdoing it?

“The important thing to remember is not to skip on a meal before your holiday event,” Johnson said.

Johnson said skipping out on breakfast, lunch, or fasting ahead of a big meal may lead to overeating.

“Eating a good breakfast and light lunch helps to prevent snacking in between meals,” Johnson said.

Johnson said if you are going to snack, have a vegetable tray with low-fat dips. She said another way to cut down on the in-between snacking is to have smaller plates on the table.

“Some people will put a big plate out on the snack table which leads us to pile it on,” Johnson said. “By placing a smaller plate out you encourage the eater to take less food.”

Johnson said while preparing the meal, you can look for healthy substitutes for ingredients such as low fat or skim milk products instead of whole milk products in baking dishes.

“Another way to cut back is to use low-calorie and fat-free salad dressings,” Johnson said.

Johnson said drinks served at a holiday event can also add calories. She said many people serve alcoholic beverages or fruit punches with high sugar contents.

“Other options for drinks are ciders, flavored waters and 100-percent-fruit juices,” Johnson said. “Having drink options available is crucial, especially with kids during the holidays.”

Johnson said one of the more important things to remember is monitoring your portion sizes. She said taking smaller portions during the meal and dessert will help cut back on calories.

“Do not be afraid to tell the host of the meal that you are monitoring your food intake,” Johnson said. “Tell them you are limiting your portion sizes and they may just admire you for your will power.”

People sometimes feel forced to eat foods during the holidays. We have all been there as trays of delicious food, deserts and treats are put down in front of us.

While we have heard it so many times, just saying no can help you cut down on weight gain during the holidays. Also, try not to stand around the food table while you socialize. Limit the time you spend around food and your conversation will be calorie free.

Another key to a healthy holiday is remembering to be physically active.

Little things such as walking can help out during the holidays, said Tom Morris, Mesalands Community College’s health and wellness facility coordinator .

“If there are kids at the event, like most holidays, get them involved and go out and play a game,” Morris said. “It is so important to remember the kids during the holidays. Don’t let them sit around all day while enjoying those holiday treats.”

Morris said there are little activities people can do around the house or while preparing for the holiday. He said simple steps such as taking the stairs at the mall or walking around during commercials can help people stay active.

“People are very busy during the holidays,” Morris said. “The key is not to forget to stay active.”