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Healthy Eating During the Holidays

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Updated January 31, 2014

holiday table

Eat right during the holidays -- be careful with the buffet.

Joel Terrell

The holiday season is a time filled with parties, family gatherings, and lots of food, but with a little help, you can keep from eating too much during the holidays. If you continue to eat a healthy and nutritious diet, you will feel better and have more energy to enjoy the season.

How To Survive the Holidays

Don't skip meals. Many people believe that if they skip breakfast or lunch, they can save all those calories for the holiday party that night. That sounds like a good idea, but skipping meals can make you crabby and tired and maybe lead to a headache that just might ruin your evening festivities.

Eat small meals. Eat a bowl of whole grain cereal and low-fat milk for breakfast, a mid-morning snack of raisins and nuts, followed by a healthy lunch with a big salad or a sandwich made with whole grain bread will keep your body and brain fueled throughout the day.

Eat high-fiber foods before the party. When you have a party to attend, snack on some fiber-filled foods just before you go. Fiber helps you to feel full, and if you aren't feeling so hungry, you might not eat so much at the party. Choose foods like low-calorie vegetables, a small salad, a piece of fresh fruit, or a small bowl of oatmeal.

Eat small amounts of the foods you love. No one wants to feel deprived, so go ahead and take a small piece of pie or one cookie -- but not both. Look over the buffet or the serving table, and pick out one thing that you really would love to enjoy. The rest of your plate can be filled with healthy vegetables and fruits, whole grain crackers, cheese and lean meats.

Don't hang around the buffet. It isn't easy to resist the delicious foods you find on a buffet at a party, so get away. Choose your foods and your drink and move to a different part of the room. At least you'll have to think about what you are doing before filling your plate again and again.

Pace yourself - slow down. When friends and family gather at a meal, the food is usually piled high on most everyone's plate. You wolf down the first plate and pick out more of your favorites to gobble down as second helpings.

It takes a few minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is getting full, and you can eat a lot of extra food in those few minutes.

Set your fork down between bites and sip some water. Relax and enjoy the flavor of each mouthful. Chew each bite thoroughly before you swallow. Savor each moment with your friends, your family and this wonderful food. Remember it's a meal, not a race to see who can eat the fastest.

Drink plenty of water. Many people believe that mild dehydration feels like hunger, and the best way to avoid becoming dehydrated to drink plenty of water. You can also use water to slow down your eating by taking a sip or two between bites.

Drink a glass of water before you drink alcohol -- and in between drinks  to slow down your alcohol consumption. 

Keep healthy snacks at work. You'll be prepared to resist the high-calorie holiday treats brought in by co-workers and customers. These treats are always tasty but rarely healthy. Snack on nuts, raisins, fresh fruit or energy bars instead so that your snack calories provide you with good nutrition. If you're going to indulge in a holiday goody, make sure it's not an everyday add-on.

Don't linger -- avoid temptation. Decide what to buy before you go into that shop. You know how tempting it is to walk into a coffee or candy shop. That temptation seems to double itself during the holiday season. You may think you are going into the coffee shop for a cup of coffee, but when you see that delicious mocha with whipped cream and peppermint sprinkles, you suddenly decide you need that one instead. Decide what you want before you go in and stick to it.

I know that huge glazed doughnut in the pastry case looks so good and tastes so sweet, but it also adds a lot of calories and sugar that you don't need. Just order your coffee and get out of there -- fast. Same thing goes for the candy shop. Do you really want a small square of dark chocolate? That's fine, just go into the shop, buy one and enjoy it. Don't go in and buy three truffles, a peanut butter cup and two caramel-pecan turtles.

It's difficult to avoid overeating during the holidays. If you do slip up now and then, don't beat yourself up for it. Be good to yourself. Remember that maintaining a healthy diet throughout the holidays takes practice. Forgive yourself and make sure your next meal or snack is a healthy one.

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