At this time of year, with the fall and winter holidays coming in rapid succession, there seems to be no end to the opportunity to snack on a variety of seasonal treats. Often, these goodies are jam packed with ingredients that – while delicious – are also full of extra calories that can be hard on the heart and on the waistline. A periodic indulgence can be a wonderful part of holiday tradition – keeping family recipes fresh from generation to generation and allowing participation in the communal experience of cooking and sharing good food. However, to avoid the common post-holiday experience of feeling a need to pay penance for too much holiday cheer, it might be of benefit to consider some of the following tips from the American Heart Association’s Holiday Healthy Eating Guide:
- Drink a glass of water or seltzer between each holiday beverage – particularly those that contain alcohol or toppings like whipped cream or marshmallows.
- Look for whole foods like slices of fruit or bite-sized veggies to snack on rather than creamy dips or fried foods that are sure to contain more fats.
- Serve small portion sizes for all foods that go onto a plate. Then eat slowly, savoring each flavor, so that the body has time to adjust to the food on board and to signal the brain when full before there’s been a chance to overload with extra portions.
- Sample a bite or two of several different desserts rather than to have a whole portion of any one treat.
- Add some brisk exercise to days of large meals – either before the main gathering or in between appetizers and dinner or dinner and dessert.
Besides considering holiday eating strategies, it is also worthwhile to make changes to the process of meal preparation so as to increase the healthfulness of foods served at group gatherings. Limiting sodium, using skim milk instead of cream, and adding nuts or spices instead of chocolate chips or sweeteners can all have positive impacts on holiday foods.
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, holiday season!