Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Season and Health

Holidays can be a difficult time if you are trying to eat healthy, nutritious foods. Many holiday dishes have lots of sugar, fat or both. Holidays can also be stressful; old family conflicts may surface along with the stuffing, gravy and green bean casserole. With all of the deliciousness aside, we will be tempted to indulge in an array of unhealthy food choices. Manage holiday dining with some basic strategies--while also leaving a little room for those scrumptious desserts!

The appetizer table is a place where a nutritious diet can be sabotaged. Look over all the offerings before you start to fill your plate. A shrimp bowl with cocktail sauce will give you some protein with a tangy edge, while raw vegetables – skip the dip – provide fiber and vitamins. A couple of whole grain crackers are a better choice than fat-laden potato chips or similar snack foods.

There are a number of seasonal foods that can provide you with health benefits. Citrus fruit and cranberries are high in vitamin C, which helps to support the immune system. Sugar, on the other hand, decreases your immune function because it competes for the same cellular receptors that vitamin C uses. Consider serving a fruit salad with seasonal citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines. Add some sliced bananas for a little extra sweetness and homemade cranberry sauce for color and extra vitamin C. Making your own cranberry sauce allows you to control the amount of sugar.

Offer to bring a colorful green salad with your special homemade dressing or bake whole grain dinner rolls. Don’t forget the children during the holidays; if you don’t want them to load up on exotic and sugary fare, you need to provide them with acceptable substitutes. Many children will choose your macaroni and cheese casserole with whole grain pasta because it’s familiar, so make sure to provide them with healthy options they eat every day. Many special foods are served only during the holidays and you can avoid extra calories if you choose a small serving of something like oyster stuffing and forgo the mashed potatoes, which you can have at any time. Eat adequate protein during the holidays. Protein helps prevent the carbohydrate overdose so common to holiday meals; too many carbs can leave you feeling lethargic.

Desserts can be the downfall of a healthy diet, so choose carefully. By keeping the above in mind, a sliver of chocolate pie could balance out a diet! If the dessert offerings all lean to high sugar and fat, you might consider having a small serving of a favorite dish. Eat it in small bites to make it last, and savor every bite--a sliver can seem like a whole cake when eating slow! No matter what you’re eating, eat slowly. This promotes secretion of saliva, the first step in the digestive process, and helps assure you get maximum nutrition from your holiday meals.I f you choose to indulge in other areas of dinner, then as a dessert, fresh fruit and cheese are are great substitutes.

Enjoy the holidays and make some great New Years resolutions that help guide you deeper into your path to wellness!



  1. This is a great reminder for us during the holidays...it's so easy to fall into the bad/fat food trap!

  2. It really is--and I'm still thinking of some creative snacks for new years!