Eating healthfully during the holidays isn’t just about nourishing our bodies; it’s also about connection between food, family, and friends. If someone prepares a special meal for us, we want to show our appreciation by eating it. That can make eating healthfully a bit more difficult during the holiday season. It can be a bit challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible.
Here are some tips…
- Eat small portions of the foods you wish to enjoy. Think first about how the food is prepared and then choose a healthy portion size. Also, think, “Is this particular food a ‘bell ringer’– something I absolutely love and would feel deprived about if I didn’t eat it?”
- If you love pecan pie, have a slice; but skip all the whipped cream and consider leaving some of the crust on the plate. You’re better off eating this small portion of pie than grazing on everything else trying to avoid that favorite dessert.
- Station yourself away from the food. Standing right next to the nachos is tempting to the point of cruelty.
- Mingle, mingle, mingle. Focus on activities other than eating. Socialize as much as you can.
- Look for healthy choices like raw veggies and fresh fruits. These days, most folks who have parties offer healthier options because they’re aware people struggles with overindulging on holiday foods.
- Choose French or other low fat breads instead of croissants… and leave the butter off the bread.
- Ask for salad dressing on the side, or if this isn’t possible, discretely ask the host to set aside a salad for you before putting on dressing.
- Drink a couple of glasses of water or no-calorie beverages before diving into a big plate of food. If you have a tendency to overindulge on alcohol, and then you find your resolve to eat healthfully goes out the window while sociailizing, ask for a glass of water with lemon or lime. Also, it you pour water into your wineglass, no one will ask to refill your drink.
- If possible, stay away from buffets where the food is prepared in ways over which you have no control. But if there’s a buffet where you and your family are celebrating a holiday, ask the waiter which items are lower in fat. Looks can be deceiving! (For example, steamed fish – it may look healthy but sometimes it’s loaded with high fat butter/margarine. Ditto for steamed veggies). Also, we tend to eat more at buffets to “get our money’s worth”.
- Order wisely. Read the menu – ask the waiter or chef “how is this food prepared”? Some foods labeled “lite” and “healthy” are often higher in fat and sodium than you think . Make healthy choices intentionally and quickly, and try not to be influenced by what others at the table are ordering.
- Don’t be embarrassed to give special directions for your food, because high fat items like mayonnaise, butter and oil can turn up in lots of foods. If you want steamed fish or veggies, ask that they be steamed without any fat or sauces.
- Make special requests to hold the fat. Tell them to hold the sour cream, high fat sauces, etc. A substitute dash of extra hot sauce or pepper works wonders.
- Hold the fatty condiments, too. Small amounts of high-fat extras, like butter, sour cream, salad dressings, etc. can quickly add up. Again, no butter on the bread and ask for dressing on the side.
- Start with a big salad with lots of vegetables. That will help you eat more slowly when the main course and fixins come.
- Prepare to splurge a little. No guilt. It’s a holiday!
Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP, CMH, is a Certified Culinary Professional and Certfied Modern Herbalist, educator, author, founding editor of www.Abouteating.com
a popular website that showcases her many interests in healthy living.