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Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

Thanksgiving Meal -- Healthy Side DishesHolidays are a time for getting together and celebrating with family and friends, and they should be a time of fun and catching up, but often it can be stressful especially if you’re watching your weight or trying to stay healthy. It sometimes seems that overeating are often as much of the holiday traditions as serving turkey for Thanksgiving. But there are some little known healthy eating secrets that you can use this holiday season to help avoid gaining unwanted girth in the wrong places!

According to the National Institutes of Health, overeating between the holidays of Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can result in approximately a two-pound weight gain. Further reports demonstrate that overweight individuals tend to gain over five pounds during that six week period. Even though this weight gain may seem trivial to some almost all the people studied did not lose that weight during the next year. Over a lifetime that is some serious weight gain! If you let yourself lose control over the holidays there is a good chance that you will keep this behavior throughout the remainder of the year and continue to eat poorly and become increasingly unhealthy. At the same time, however, being health conscious does not mean you can’t enjoy the holidays. It means you should prepare yourself for how you want to act during the holidays. There are many things that one can do to get ready for the holiday season and stay fit and healthy.

Exercise is a great way to increase metabolism and even preemptively lose a few pounds before the holidays arrive. Look at it as “banking” a few pounds that you can afford to replace during the holidays; and who knows, if you stick to your plan you may even come out of the holidays a little lighter than when they started. Maybe you can even start a habit of exercise that you can carry on throughout the year.

One of the most common traps that people fall into during the holidays is starving themselves throughout the day so they can indulge in one big dinner meal. Talk about a holiday recipe — this is a recipe for disaster from both a health and weight-loss perspective. You are setting yourself up for big weight gain with this one. Instead, try eating small meals and snacks before guests arrive or before you leave to celebrate elsewhere. This will keep your metabolism moving and probably protect you for the desire to overeat. Your goal during a holiday meal should be to eat until you are satisfied, not until you are stuffed.

Don’t feel bad about turning down a second helping, stay focused on health. Chances are if you are a parent your children will model your eating behaviors, so lead by example. Aim to have vegetables (specifically, those that grow above ground, as opposed to root vegetables) make up the largest portion of your plate, not necessarily the largest portion of your calories. The rest of your plate should be taken up by protein and some healthy fats (e.g., nuts and olive oil). Then portion a small area for the carbs and sweets. This way you know if you finish your plate you are keeping a good healthy balance of food intake.

Another area to pay attention to is how much you drink. Alcohol will lower your inhibitions and can lead to overeating, while juices and sodas are often loaded with sugar and calories. So limit consumption and look for low-calorie options, and have some water as well. This is often an area where if we are doing everything else right we can inadvertently sabotage ourselves.

If you are going to be the host of a holiday feast there are some ways to provide your guests and family with healthier recipes without sacrificing the traditional foods you have come to love. Let’s start with gravy. Who doesn’t like gravy smothered over their turkey? Try refrigerating your gravy so that the fat will harden, and you can skim it off the top. This can reduce the fat content by over 50 grams per cup. Remove the skin from turkey to again lower the fat content of the meal. You might even want to make crustless pumpkin pies to reduce the carb content, or just eat the filling of a pumpkin or sweet potato pie. You can often modify recipes to reduce the calories and not sacrifice flavor.

TELL US: What healthy dishes do you serve at Thanksgiving? What are your star ingredients?

EVENT ALERT! Dr. Colker will be at Fairway’s Stamford Cafe at 2 p.m. this Saturday, November 5th, providing more healthy tips for the holidays. Fairway Stamford is located at 699 Canal Street, Stamford, CT 06902.

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