Question of the Week

November 13, 2006


As Thanksgiving approaches, so do the times of holiday parties and holiday eating. For those trying to lose weight (or just trying to make sure that they don't gain weight), it can be a difficult time of year.

" 'The party-pooper mentality of restriction and deprivation is not a lot of fun and can create unrealistic expectations,' said American Dietetic Association (ADA) Spokesperson Felicia Busch, R.D.(registered dietitian), from St. Paul, Minn. 'We can eat well and still enjoy our holiday favorites, even rich desserts. Healthful holiday eating is not an oxymoron - planning is the key.' ... 'Plan ahead during the holidays and balance high-calorie and high-fat choices with low-calorie fruits and veggies.' advised Busch.'Enjoy holiday treats, but remember, people make holidays special too. Savor time with family and friends' "

It is a lot easier to enjoy the holidays when the goal is having fun and keeping the expectations realistic. That sounds like a great idea, and it seems as though everyone has advice about how to accomplish it.
* Don't try to diet. Your goal should be to maintain weight, not lose it.
* To avoid indulging in high-fat fast food when your days become hectic, pre-plan several quick, healthy meals and have them readily available for reheating.
* Don't try to cut out high-fat holiday favorites like eggnog and candied sweet potatoes. Instead, choose small portions and fill your plate with lower fat choices ...
* Eat something before going to an event with alcohol. The effects of alcohol are felt much more quickly on an empty stomach and can lead to overeating and overdrinking. Also try to drink one glass of water before each glass of an alcoholic beverage.
* Center entertainment around non-food events such as ice skating, renting a holiday movie, or singing carols.
* ... Arrive fashionably late and stand far away from buffets so you're not tempted to nibble constantly. Instead, indulge in conversation.
*Make the effort to continue a regular exercise program, even in the midst of holiday bustle. It's your key to maintaining good health and a healthy weight."

And even more advice...

"* Plan on NOT dieting after the New Year. Anticipation of food restriction sets you up for binge-type eating over the holidays ...
* Eat a light snack before going to holiday parties. It is not a good idea to arrive at a party famished. ...
* Make a plan. Think about where you will be, who you will be with, what foods will be available, what foods are really special to you ... Once you've thought about all of these things, make a plan of action. ...
*Take steps to avoid recreational eating. While some foods are more calorie-dense than others, no food will make you gain weight unless you eat too much of it. ...
* Reduce the fat in holiday recipes. ...
* Choose your beverages wisely. Alcohol is high in calories. ... By contrast, water and diet sodas are calorie-free....
* Enjoy good friends and family. Although food can be a big part of the season, it doesn’t have to be the focus....
* Maintain perspective: Overeating one day won't make or break your eating plan...."

There is even advice for those who are doing the cooking...

"Health-minded holiday cooking may seem impossible, but nutritional experts say it's not. Chefs and dietitians alike agree that most recipes can be modified to increase their health value without sacrificing taste. And they say many tricks of the trade are simple and can be applied to all cooking, any time of the year. 'Reduce and replace' -- that's the key, says Darlene Dougherty, M.S., R.D., former president of the American Dietetic Association. ... Reduce fats, particularly saturated fats such as butter and other animal fats, which are high in cholesterol. Limit sugar: 'empty' calories with little nutritional value. Limit salt: a risk factor for high blood pressure and hypertension in some people. Pile on the fruits, vegetables, grains and cereals. ... 'Analyze your recipes, look at where the fat is, then ask yourself: Why is it there? Can I leave it out?' says Michael Pardus, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. And don't forget presentation, says Pardus. 'Use a small meat portion and fill your plate with vegetables and starches prepared without a lot of butter or cream.' "

Everyone has an opinion. As the holidays get closer there will be radio and television reports, newspaper and magazine articles, and advice from "helpful" friends and relatives about how to make the holidays a healthier time of year.

Questions of the Week:
Everyone has advice about how to have a healthier holiday season. How do you sort it out and find what advice will work best for you? How can you make healthy holiday eating choices without being overwhelmed by the prospect of it -- or overwhelmed by all the people telling you the best way to do it? If you have friends or family members who are concerned they might gain weight over the holidays, what would you tell them? How would you approach different people differently, even if they had the same concerns?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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