Tips for healthy holiday eating

A typical holiday meal can pack a whopping number of calories, many from fat, causing the average American to gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. But by making simple changes, holiday meals can be made healthier.
“Most holiday meals are not bad for you if they are prepared properly,” says Benjamin Nesseim, family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Waukon. “The trouble arises when fat and sugar are added.”
For example, including large amounts of sugar, butter and cream in recipes negates many of the benefits of healthy foods like squash, potatoes, and meat. It also makes it more difficult to enjoy these foods’ natural flavors.
 Dr. Nesseim recommends the following tips for healthy holiday eating:

  • Cut away all visible fat from meat before cooking.
  • Roast poultry on a rack so fat can drip away, remove skin before eating.
  • Remove fat from homemade soup; cool soups and skim off the fat that rises to the surface; use lots of vegetables.
  • Make sauce with fat free broth or low fat milk, thickened with flour.
  • Prepare fruit salads without dressing - just enjoy the fruit.
  • Roast root vegetables after tossing with olive oil and seasonings instead of preparing a creamy vegetable casserole.

Plan Ahead/Think First:

  • Before you have a holiday meal, take the edge off your appetite by eating a couple crackers.
  • Establish a plan for eating before you sit down, and enjoy smaller servings.
  • Concentrate on social conversation; sit away from the food.
  • Don’t tempt yourself; avoid having mixed nuts, candies, and cookies out.
  • Opt for low-calorie beverages.
  • Eliminate appetizers - try a chilled sparkling juice in a stemmed glass instead.
  • Don’t give up the family favorites, but enjoy them in moderation.
  • Stay active over the holidays: take a walk and enjoy the winter wonderland.

“The most important thing is to maintain a positive attitude and feel good about your self-control,” says Dr. Nesseim. “So eat, drink and be merry this holiday season, just do so in a healthy way.”