Enjoy all holiday treats in moderation

Friday, November 21, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:18 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Here’s some scary food for thought: To gain five pounds from now to the end of January, all a person needs to do is eat an average of 300 calories more per day than normal. Even scarier: During the holiday months, everyone is apt to fall victim to overindulgence.

Lunch hours and evening will inevitably be spent shopping and running errands, without the actual physical motion of running.

All the while, festive co-workers will bring in platters of cookies and candies that will sit there all day with a neon sign flashing “Guilt” overhead. Yet, by the end of the day the cookies and party trays seem to disappear.

It’s that time of year again. The time for great food and great guilt.

While there may seem to be less time, more to do and more temptation, nutrition experts at MU Health Care stress that there are ways to prevent holiday weight gain and still maintain sanity.

“First of all, nobody should expect to strictly maintain their regular exercise and eating regimen during the holiday season,” said Jennifer Polniak, a clinical dietitian at University Hospital.

Just face it. Enjoying the holidays and maintaining health can be a challenge.

Some people approach the end of the year thinking they will carry on with their preholiday eating habits. However, when they give way to the first plate of cookies, they fall apart for the rest of the season. This feeling of “failure” doesn’t leave room to enjoy the holidays.

According to Polniak, starting a healthy eating plan during this jolly time of year may make people more susceptible to feeling like a failure. She recommends eating sensibly, allowing for a little indulgence with less-hazardous foods.

“There’s no such thing as good or bad foods, just good or bad habits,” Polniak said.

Whether it seems like it or not, the traditional turkey is a great low-fat choice, especially the white meat. When preparing the holiday vegetables, Polniak suggests using herbs, spices, onions, garlic and low-sodium broth as alternatives to butter and margarine.

Skeptics may argue that low-fat anything isn’t worth trying and certain things should not be substituted. Those who look forward to the fat-laden gravy and butter-filled sweet potato pie may be hesitant to alter their tradition, but they should know that some things can still be mouth-watering — without all the fat.

Though the motto is typically, “Eat, drink and be merry,” those who give in to temptations too easily should plan their meals and indulgences ahead of time. Polniak suggests the following:

  • Before going to a party, eat a low-fat snack or meal to avoid overeating.
  • Look for the fruit and vegetable trays at holiday parties, and go easy on the dips.
  • Avoid eating no fat. Eating moderate amounts of fat during the holidays will satisfy the appetite and prevent overeating of carbohydrates.
  • Help out by saving fat and calories when it’s feasting time.
  • Make or buy wild-rice stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, whole-grain rolls and angel-food cake with fruit.
  • Be aware that alcoholic drinks contain calories.
  • Walk or use the stairs as often as possible to burn off extra calories.

    Don’t give up because of one overeating binge. Just be cautious the next day.

The bottom line during this tempting, food-encompassing time of year is this: Be sensible, have fun and have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

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