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Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Among the many pleasures of the holidays are foods and festivities of the season, but for many, these present a special challenge. You may wonder, "how can I enjoy the holidays and still manage to maintain a healthful diet". Most foods--even traditional holiday treats--can fit into a healthy eating plan. The secret is moderation and balance.

PARTIES

Juggling drinks and small plates, shaking hands and holding conversations can really take your attention away from what you are eating. Here are some effective tips for holding the line at holiday stand-up events.

*Eat small, lower-calorie meals during the day so you can enjoy a special treat later. Eat a healthy snack right before the party. A hungry stomach can sabotage event the strongest will-power.

*When even you arrive at the party, don't rush to the food. Greet people you know, get a beverage and settle in.

*Make only one trip to the buffet and be selective. Choose only the foods you really want to eat. Keep portions small. Often, a taste is all you will need to satisfy a craving or your curiosity.

*Skip the fried food crackers and bread. If you want to nibble on cheese, take only one or two pieces.

*Fresh vegetables are always great. Have a small dollop of dip, just enough to coat the end of the carrot stick or broccoli flowerets.

*Boiled shrimp or scallops are a good choice. Choose cocktail sauce or lemon and horseradish as a condiment.

DINNER PARTIES

Dinner invitations away from home could mean eating at a friend's or relative's home or perhaps at a country club or hotel for the company bash. In either case, the meal is already planned and you don't have a menu choice. If you're bringing a dish to a friend's or relative's table, make a lower-fat version of a family favorite. Once the food is on the table, you can make some healthy choices.

*If possible, choose two appetizers instead of an entree or share an entree with a friend.

*If second helpings are mandatory with your host or hostess, make your first helping small. That way, if you're enticed to take seconds, at least the total amount of food you eat may equal a normal-sized portion.

*Choose the skinless white meat of poultry. It has fewer calories and fat than dark meat.

*Avoid the bread or have just one piece dipped in olive oil.

MENU PLANNING

Modify your traditional holiday menus and recipes to reduce fat, cholesterol and calories. For example:

ORIGINAL MENU 3 1/2 ounces roast duck, 1/2 cup stuffing, 1/2 cup broccoli with hollandaise sauce, 1/2 cup jellied cranberry sauce, 1 medium crescent roll, 1 slice pecan pie. TOTAL CALORIES = 1205 TOTAL FAT = 55 grams

LEANER MENU 3 1/2 ounces roast turkey breast, 1/2 cup rice pilaf, 1/2 cup broccoli with lemon juice, 1/2 cup fresh cranberry relish, 1 fresh roll, 1 slice pumpkin pie. TOTAL CALORIES = 730 TOTAL FAT = 21 grams

Exchanges:

CELEBRATION STRATEGIES

*Be realistic. Trying to lose weight during the holidays may be a self-defeating goal. Striving to maintain your weight, however, is a reasonable expectation.

*Forget the "all or nothing" mindset. Depriving yourself of special holiday foods or feeling guilty over a particular food choice are not part of a healthy eating strategy--and certainly not part of the holiday spirit.

*Have fun! Sharing food is an important way to spread holiday cheer. Enjoying a traditional meal or celebrating with family and friends need not destroy the healthy food habits you have nurtured all year.

Dr. Dennis Padla