Food & Drink

Make a plan for healthful eating during the holidays

UKhealth Sheri Setser-Legg
UKhealth Sheri Setser-Legg By Mary Meehan

Once again the holiday season is upon us — a time for family, friends, fun and food.

During the holidays, unfortunately, we tend to forget our healthful eating habits and, instead, take every opportunity to overindulge. We end each year eating everything we want. All these added calories inevitably lead to the extra 5 to 7 pounds the average American gains from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day.

Controlling that weight gain can be simple. If you continue healthful habits you've maintained throughout the year, you can likely avoid unwanted holiday pounds. That doesn't mean you can't celebrate the season and enjoy some of your favorite treats. It just means you need to continue eating a variety of foods and control those special splurges. Here are some tips for healthful holiday eating:

 Be realistic. Don't expect to lose weight during the holiday season. The average person gains weight this time of year. Simply maintaining your weight is a sign of success.

 Plan time for exercise. Chances are that you have time off work, so develop a regular exercise program or pick up the pace of your current exercise schedule. Not only does regular exercise burn calories, it also relieves stress during this hectic time.

 Practice healthful holiday cooking. Our favorite dishes don't have to be fat and calorie-laden nightmares. Just a few modifications in the way you cook can turn a favorite into a more healthful indulgence. By using lower-fat ingredients, dishes can have substantially fewer calories.

 Don't skip meals. For parties, don't starve yourself in anticipation. You'll likely arrive ravenous and eat everything. Instead, continue a regular meal and snack schedule. Don't go longer than four hours without eating. By eating regularly, you are less likely to overindulge.

 Know when to say when. Eat only until you are satisfied, not stuffed. When you eat, do only that — sit down, get comfortable and savor that holiday treat. By paying attention to your food, you will be able to monitor your portions more closely. Enjoy your favorite dishes, but do so with a controlled amount.

 Get bang for your buck. Instead of engaging in indiscriminate eating, consider whether this is food you truly enjoy or is unique to the holiday season. If so, have a small portion. If not, bypass it.

 Have a party game plan. We make poor choices due to lack of planning. Have a healthful snack before you attend a holiday celebration. Survey the buffet for the most healthful choices and add those to your plate first.

 Keep healthful snacks handy. These will keep you full and less tempted to visit the candy jar. Fruits, veggies and cereal bars make great snacks.

 Watch those beverages. Alcohol contains many empty calories and lowers inhibitions, leading to overeating.

 Be assertive. People show love through food, so it might feel rude to refuse your aunt's casserole. Be upfront with friends and family that you are trying to stay healthy.

We tell ourselves we'll lose weight once the new year arrives. However, most of us know those well-meaning resolutions rarely last past February. Don't delay — start now working toward a happy, healthy 2012.