This time of year does not have to be one that results in overating at holiday gatherings.
Anne Menzies, a registered dietitian at Riverside Medical Center and a member of the Waupaca Eating Smart team, says there are a number of things people can do to stay on track with healthy eating habits.
“Banish all treats from view … out of sight, out of mind,” she says.
Whether it is an office party or get-together with family or friends, talk to others ahead of time to plan what will be on the menu.
Menzies recommends taking a healthy appetizer, such as a veggie tray with dip, to a party and to focus on a non-food activity, such as an after-meal walk.
“Remember portion control,” she said. “Focus on filling half of your plate with vegetables and then one-fourth of your plate with some protein and one-fourth of your plate with a starch.”
She said people should spend time focusing on the good things to eat, rather than on what they should avoid.
“Challenge yourself to eat your daily quota of fruits and veggies, which is a minimum of five servings per day,” she said.
Menzies recommends eating small amounts of seasonal foods and skipping big portions of foods that can be enjoyed all year.
In addition, shortly before a big meal, have a high fiber snack, such as a low-sodium vegetable juice or a piece of fruit.
When it comes to being tempted to go back for seconds, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” she said.
People should eat only when they are truly hungry and should stop eating before they reach the full feeling or are physically satisfied, not psychologically satisfied.
Menzies also said people can stay on track by standing away from the table of food, and, when they are eating, by savoring each bite of food by chewing slowly.
As for appetizers, fruits and vegetables are the best options, she said.
Whole-grain crackers with a slice of low-fat cheese are also a good choice.
“Stay away from the fried things or the high-fat sausages, cocktail weiners and creamy dips,” she said. “Offer to bring a dip and make a lower-fat version.”
Menzies also reminds people that alcohol is empty calories that do not offer anything nutritionally.
“Also, if you drink too much, it leads to less resistance to unhealthy food items,” she said. “Alcohol, plus whatever it is mixed with, can reach 500 calories if you are not careful. Two drinks and someone could be at two-thirds of their calories for the whole day.”
Instead, opt for a wine spritzer that is half wine, half selzer water.
She also advises avoiding fruit juices, as the calories can add up quickly.
During holiday baking, practice recipe modification techniques, such as substituting applesauce for the oil in a recipe in a 1:1 ratio, using two egg whites instead of one whole egg and using reduced-fat ingredients like low-fat sour cream and cream cheese.
Intensify the chocolate flavor in recipes by adding one-half to one teaspoon of instant coffee granules, disolved in a bit of water, she said.
For pie lovers, remember that it is the crust that contains the majority of the calories and fat, Menzies said.
Finally, rule No. 1 is no dieting around the holidays.
“Restricting your eating will only cause overeating and disappointment. Remember, this is a time to share with your family and not to get carried away by food,” Menzies said. “Sometimes, the holidays can be stressful, so find what works for you to relieve your stress. For many, exercise is a great way to take your mind off of the hustle and bustle and just focus on your health and feeling good.”