Nutrition Know-How for Holiday Health

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by Nicole Turner-Ravana

The Holiday Season means it’s a time for eating! But the parade of parties and get togethers doesn’t need to result in an extra ten pounds. With a few simple strategies you can put nutrition know-how on your side and dive into the celebration with both your waistline and your health in mind.

Party Planning

Holiday parties set the stage for decadence and indulgence. Prepare by thinking ahead and making healthier choices throughout the day to have calories to spare. For example, having nonfat yogurt with fruit for breakfast and a salad with grilled chicken for lunch means a few party treats can be enjoyed without guilt. Don’t “save” all of your calories by not eating, since this increases hunger and reduces self-restraint. At the event, don’t mindlessly snack along the buffet table. Grab a plate and stick to a strategy. Think of USDA’s new MyPlate symbol (www.choosemyplate.gov). First fill half of your plate with fresh fruits and veggies with a little dip. This will automatically limit the number of calories you eat and fill your tummy with healthy fiber and antioxidants to help battle winter sniffles and holiday stress. The second half of the plate should include lean proteins and whole grains if possible. But don’t be too strict. Give a little leeway to enjoy party favorites so you don’t feel deprived or miss out on great holiday cooking.

Restaurant Nutrition Savvy

Getting together with friends for a gift swap at restaurants can quickly lead to calorie overload. To make healthier choices, suggest meeting at a restaurant that advertises the Smart Meal seal. Menu items with the Smart Meal logo have a limited number of calories, fat, and sodium and include veggies and whole grains. Many restaurants also have nutrition information available either on the menu or if requested. You can compare items and see which has fewer calories. For ordering on the fly with no nutrition details, look for a few hints for healthier items when scanning the menu. Avoid items described as fried, breaded or sautéed; they guarantee extra oil or butter and calories. Go easy on the sides, which can add an extra 200 to 500-plus calories for things like French fries, mashed potatoes or mac-n-cheese. Instead substitute a side salad, steamed vegetables or fresh fruit. Another strategy is to pack a to-go box as soon as you hit the half-way point on the meal. You’ll never regret feeling satisfied with left-overs for tomorrow versus feeling stuffed in that party dress.

Shopping Strategies

Keep your house stocked with healthy foods to keep diet goals on track through New Year’s Day. Begin your shopping in the produce section and load up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Research new party recipes that incorporate these fresh ingredients on apps like Epicurious, All Recipes, and Cooking Light. When browsing the aisles of the market, compare labels. Pay less attention to flashy packaging claims and more attention to the nutrition facts to see which items are lower in calories, fat, sodium and sugar. Remember that descriptors like “organic” and “natural” don’t always mean “healthy.”

Nicole Turner-Ravana, MS is the owner of Strategic Nutrition Communications LLC, a Colorado nutrition marketing firm that provides labeling, branding, and education services for companies and organizations. Visit www.StrategicNutrition.org to learn more.

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