It's now the holiday season, so I thought it would be appropriate to reproduce the following hints, from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (There's also a Holiday Food and Nutrition Resource List at the USDA website.)
Friday: School holiday party with assorted baked goods-1,000 calories
Food is an important part of the holiday season. Whether your taste runs to old standbys or to something new, it's easy for normal eating patterns to take a backseat at this time of year.
By following a few tips on holiday eating, you and your family can enjoy special foods while keeping a balanced and healthy diet.
There are no "good" and "bad" foods, only good and bad eating habits. Let's start by taking a look at the Food Guide Pyramid. Grain products, vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk products, lean meats, fish, poultry, and dry beans all have a place in a healthy diet. A diet that is balanced to reflect the Pyramid provides a steady stream of energy, repairs and restores the body, and helps manage stress and prevent mood swings.
What matters most is the total amount and types of food you eat over several days. The Pyramid shows that we should choose fewer foods that are high in fat or sugar, while selecting more fruits and vegetables, which are packed with important vitamins and minerals. Excess weight gain during the holidays often comes from eating too many high-fat or high-sugar holiday foods.
Before a holiday event, eat a snack or light meal. Foods high in protein, like chicken or cottage cheese, help you to eat less later. Fasting ahead of time to leave room for a big meal or extra trips to the buffet may lead you to overeat.
It's important not to let kids eat whatever they want during this festive time of year. In particular, limit the number of sodas your children drink. Soda has little or no nutritional value and is loaded with caffeine and sweeteners. These ingredients, which are found in many holiday goodies, can make your child hyper. Besides, weight gain isn't just an adult issue. Too many children are obese, so don't let your child's holiday fun add excess weight.
If you are hosting a holiday event, do your guests a favor by including nonalcoholic beverages and healthier items such as vegetables, salad, and fruit on the menu. Use low-calorie and fat-free salad dressings. Putting these items out before the sweets, meats, and soufflés will give everyone a better chance of not overdoing it with high-fat, high-calorie choices.
Look for healthy substitutes for ingredients when you whip up your favorite holiday fare. You may be able to use low-fat or skim milk products instead of whole milk products in some dishes. In some baked goods, you can swap applesauce for oil. Switching ingredients can create tasty results without the high calories that often come with rich foods.
Keeping Your Balance
People usually run into problems with weight gain during the holidays when they enjoy more high-sugar or high-fat foods. So what to do? Enjoy yourself! Eat tempting holiday foods, but use a bit of restraint. Eat small portions to keep yourself from indulging too much.
At the same time, be sure that you and your family members are getting enough of the nutritional foods your bodies need. Snacks and desserts are fine, but they're not meals. See that everyone keeps his or her nutritional balance with servings that include fruits and veggies.
Washing It Down
What you drink during the holidays can add calories. Look at all of your options. Alcoholic beverages and many fruit punches can be long on calories but short on nutrition. Instead, look for hot cider, diet sodas, and flavored waters.
Playing It Smart
Here are a few more tips for healthy holiday eating:
Food and holiday gatherings go hand in hand. So join in and help yourself to some tasty treats, keeping the Food Guide Pyramid in mind. If you've been exercising, keep it up during the holiday season. If you aren't getting enough exercise, it's a great time to start. With a dash of discipline and a pinch of planning, you'll have a great recipe for holiday fun without the regret that many of us feel the next time we step on a scale.