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Wednesday 21 December 2011

25 easy-to-follow tips for healthy holiday eating

Once again it’s time for festivities and feasting. Here are 25 ways to enjoy healthy eating this holiday season – at home, at the office and with friends.

 1. Do some pre-holiday planning. Decide ahead of time how you will handle the different events of the season. For non-festive days, plan healthy meals, and get some exercise every day.
 2. Eat a snack before going to a party. Have yogurt or fruit, a few crackers with low-fat cheese, vegetables or a skim-milk latte – so hunger won’t rule your choices.

 3. Indulge – moderately. No need to do without your favourite foods, just take small portions and eat slowly; that way you’ll eat less and savour more. A small taste can satisfy your craving.
 4. Let your eyes feast first. Before eating, see what is being served. If there are raw vegetables or plain seafood, start with those, to take the edge off your appetite.
 5. Avoid guilty pleasures you can have anytime, such as chocolates or chips, and go with seasonal favourites such as rum-drenched fruitcake. Enjoy, but keep your portions small.
 6. Stand far away from the buffet table. Once you’ve chosen food, take your plate into another room and enjoy calorie-free talk with friends. Make one trip to the buffet, and be selective.
 7. At a cocktail party, hold your drink in your right hand if you are right-handed (or left hand if you’re a lefty): It will make it more difficult to reach for food on impulse.
 8. At a sit-down dinner, eat slowly. Put your cutlery down between bites and chew thoroughly. Talk between bites, so your meal will last longer. Split dessert with someone else.
 9. Be the designated driver. Have one alcoholic drink (make it something you really enjoy) and, for the rest of the evening, choose drinks such as sparkling water, a virgin Caesar or juice with soda.
 10. When it comes to beverages, watch those extra calories. An eight-ounce serving of non-alcoholic eggnog has about 362 calories, but the lighter versions contain considerably less. A five-ounce glass of white wine is 100 calories, a 12-ounce beer is 150, a three-ounce martini has about 195 calories, and 1.5 ounces of Scotch has 100 calories. As for mixers, juice and pop contain anywhere between 110 and 150 calories per cup, whereas soda water or diet drinks have virtually no calories.
 11. If you’re invited to a friend’s house, take a potted plant, candles or some nice soap instead of candy or other goodies.
 12. Plan tempting, yet healthy, substitutions – grilled shrimp versus deep fried; fresh vegetables with low-fat dips rather than nachos; salsa instead of a creamy dip; lettuce wraps versus egg rolls; chicken satay, not wings; ginger snaps instead of shortbread; sushi, not sausage rolls.
 13. Lighten-up your favourite recipes. Use buttermilk or skim milk instead of whole milk in mashed potatoes; use herbs, lemon and light vinaigrette to flavour foods, instead of gravy, butter, margarine or cream sauces; take skin off turkey and de-fat gravy before you serve it. Cut the carbs from stuffing by using less bread and more vegetables and/or fruit. Add extra vegetables to your holiday dinner.
 14. If you bake cookies and squares in advance, freeze them so they are beyond the reach of temptation, and bring them out only when you need them. Make smaller cookies and cut squares into bite-size pieces. 15. Chew a piece of sugar-free gum while cooking or baking, to stop mindless nibbling; when you chew gum, you’re less likely to put something else in your mouth.
 16. If you are serving cheeses, include some lower-fat varieties with 15% or less M.F., such as some goat cheeses, Cantenaar or low-fat Cheddar or Havarti. Serve them with whole wheat, low-fat, unsalted crackers. When eating cheese, slice or spread it thinly. 
17. If you buy ready-made appetizers, read the nutritional information for the lowest-calorie, lowest-fat choices.
 18. After the party, send leftovers home with friends, or package them into meals and freeze for later.
 19. Help your guests eat mindfully. At a party, put out smaller plates (we tend to fill larger plates with more food). Serve nibbles from smaller dishes. At a dinner party, pre-portion food rather than having guests serve themselves.
 20. If you are organizing an office lunch or dinner out, pick a restaurant that has lots of healthy choices on the menu, such as salads (dressing on the side) or grilled fish or meat.
 21. If you’re contributing to an office potluck, think healthy and delicious – a vegetarian lasagna made with lower-fat cheeses, a lentil salad or any of your low-fat favourites.
 22. If there are treats around the office, put them in a place where you can’t easily see them. If someone brings you a box of truffles, don’t keep the box sitting out on your desk; share them with your coworkers. If there are too many gift baskets of goodies around the office, donate some to a food bank.
 23. If you have special diet concerns such as diabetes or food allergies, let your dinner hostess know ahead of time so it won’t be uncomfortable for either of you.
 24. If you have a specific intolerance such as celiac disease, bring some of your own cookies or treats to parties or dinners. Share them with your friends.
 25. Give guilt a vacation – it’s just another holiday stress. If you overeat, don’t worry; you’ll have lots of time in the new year to get back on track. And remember to take care of yourself. Eat smart, stay active, get enough sleep and enjoy a healthy holiday.

 This story was originally titled "25 Easy-to-Follow Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating" in the December 2008 Canadian Living issue.

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