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Healthful Holiday Eating: A Savvy Survivor’s Guide

By Reema Sayegh, PhD

reemaSayeghIt’s that time of year again! Don’t we all look forward to getting together with friends and family, attending office parties, shopping the malls, and decking the halls?

What follows is basic survival strategy in order partake in all festivities and still fit into our clothes in January!

When we’re about to fall over from shopping overload, and need a quick meal at the food court, we can make a sensible choice that won’t eat up half a day’s caloric ration. McDonald’s has a snack size frozen yogurt parfait (sans granola) for 130 calories. Chick-Fil-A offers a small size chicken soup for 140 calories, and Taco Bell has a pintos-n-cheese cup for 180 calories. These options are not elaborate, gourmet meals, but they can hold us over until we get home to continue more healthful selections!

When shopping for holiday groceries cruise the periphery of the grocery store and skip the snack aisle! Now’s the time to grab some whole foods (think: fruits and vegetables), pre-made salads and deli items as well.

When it’s time for the office soiree, it’s always a good idea to eat a small snack beforehand. Some almonds and an apple can really “fill in the gaps” and if we can also drink eight to 12 ounces of water prior to the event, we’ll really be ahead of the game.

At the party, it’s best to sit away from the food and put the fork down between bites. Remember portions, too! One ounce of cheese is roughly the size of a pair of dice. Instead of chips and dip, try crudités and salsa. Just that substitution alone can save over 300 calories, boost fiber and antioxidant intake, and fill us up. Eat slowly, as it really does take a minimum of 20 minutes for us to realize we’re full. If we’re imbibing, we need to remember that a glass of wine tops out at around 150 calories, is high in sugar, and does not count as a resveratrol serving. If we order some fruit juice with a splash of Seltzer water, we can save almost 100 calories!

Got family obligations? No problem! Try a dish of steamed vegetables in lieu of the green bean casserole, or baked sweet potatoes in lieu of the gooey marshmallow version. If cooking red meat, select leaner cuts like loin, round and extra lean, and roast, bake, braise or broil. If the bird’s the thing, remove the skin prior to serving and try cooking the stuffing separately. Pass on seconds, and sit quietly when you’ve finished the food, remembering that not every social gathering has to be all about the food.

Finally, don’t be overzealous with your goals this time of year. It’s stressful enough to brave the weather, traffic, crowds, office jokes, and challenging family members! Don’t add trying to lose weight to the equation. Be realistic, and tell yourself you will maintain your current weight through the holiday season. Having clothes that fit on New Year’s Day is quite an accomplishment in and of itself.

Happy Holidays!


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