Experts offer holiday eating tips

Eating healthy may be one of the hardest things to do during the holidays. Pressures and expectations associated with the holidays may cause anxiety and stress. In turn, weight management and weight loss seem impossible.

Thanksgiving through New Year's Day comprise days full of time to indulge in rich holiday foods. In the same time frame, physical activity and relaxation times are short.

The Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado has set basic principles for people to follow who are on a weight management program.

They say overeating at several holiday meals will not lead to major weight gain, but it is the overeating between the holiday events which causes weight gain.

Mike Bowers, psychiatric dietician, and Jan Hammeren, registered dietician, with WeightChoice, a weight management center that is part of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center at the Center for Human Nutrition, offer the following tips.

Throughout each day make wise food choices and eat smaller portions to balance the extra holiday meal calories.

Don't cut back too far before a holiday meal. Eat modest portions of nutritious foods for the other two meals. A small snack one-hour or so before a big meal may help you eat less at the big social meal.

Limit high-calorie appetizers, such as nuts, chips and dips, crackers and cheese. It is easy to eat and drink mindlessly while socializing. After having a small amount of the appetizers, move away from the food and focus on socializing.

Make the bulk of each meal from lower-calorie foods, carefully selecting a small portion of one or several high-calorie foods as part of the meal.

While in a social eating situation, alternate attention between socializing and eating. When eating, slow down the pace and savor the taste to experience the food you eat.

Wait at least 10 to 20 minutes before going for seconds. It might be you're already full or that a small serving of one or two favorites will suffice.

If it is a pot-luck, bring a lower calorie dish to share.

Practice a firm, "No, thanks, I'm full," when people prod to keep eating.

During the holidays, it is also easy to become engulfed in social situations. Along with these situations comes stress and a natural tendency to set healthy habits aside because "it's the holidays."

If you are doing holiday cooking, create nutritious or non-food focused holiday traditions.

Use vegetables and fruit with a sweet or savory low-fat dip, or relish trays, which include low-fat cheese and cracker trays as appetizers.

According to Bowers and Hammeren, managing hunger during the holiday season can lead to overeating during later meals. They suggest filling up on bulky, low-calorie food such as vegetables or popcorn.

Stress itself can be a burden during the holidays, according to Bowers and Hammeren. Finding an "official stress reducer of the holiday season," such as walking, muscle relaxation, focused breathing, reading, meditating and others can help take the pressure off, according to the dieticians.

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