Healthy Holiday Habits

By Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

The holidays carry lots of joy and merriment. Time spent with loved ones often brings with it indulgent, celebratory, rich foods. While these tasty treats are time-honored traditions, they can pack quite the calorie punch. In order to enjoy classic holiday foods with your friends and family without packing on the pounds, employ a few of these simple tricks to stay on track.

Always have a small, healthy snack before heading to a family gathering or holiday party. Enjoy a piece of fruit or some sliced veggies before the main event so you are not famished when the food arrives. This will help you exert more control over your food choices.

Drink plenty of water. Yes, there will be plenty of festive holiday beverages around—punch, cider, wine, etc.—but these calories will add up quickly because your body does not get the same feeling of fullness from liquids as it does from solid foods. Enjoy one glass of wine or other holiday beverage and then switch to water.

If you choose to try some appetizers, choose only the most delicious-looking ones and place them on one small plate and really relish each bite.

Speaking of appetizers, avoid standing right near the appetizer and snack area—standing so close makes it easier for you to munch mindlessly and you won’t realize how much you have actually eaten.

When it comes time for the main meal, be sure to fill half of your plate with colorful vegetables first—you will have less room for the higher-calorie fare. To ensure you will have healthy options available, offer to bring a dish to the gathering and make something nutritious that you can fill up on.

When it comes to dessert, cut a small portion of whatever tasty treat looks the best to you. Savor each small bite slowly and have it with a full glass of water. Focus on visiting with your loved ones rather than the food itself.
Be sure to stick to your workout routine throughout the holidays. Even if you can simply fit in a quick morning workout or go for a walk after the main meal, any sort of movement is better than none.

In response to a dramatic increase in the number of children needing hunger relief, a generous, anonymous donor has issued a $50,000 matching gift challenge to Operation Food Search (OFS) to support its weekend feeding program for food-insecure children, Operation Backpack. Through the end of December, every dollar given toward the backpack program will be matched until $100,000 is reached! Since Operation Backpack began in 2008, OFS has distributed over a half million free backpacks filled with food for the weekend so that children from low-income families can return to school Monday mornings refreshed and with focus for learning rather than the gnawing pangs of hunger. Please help us reach our matching gift challenge to help more children by making a donation online today at www.OperationFoodSearch.org, or by calling (314) 726-5355 X 19. Thank you!