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Last updateWed, 28 Sep 2016 4pm

Your Health

How to enjoy a holly, jolly - and nutritious - holiday


Photo By: Town Crier File Photos
Photo Town Crier File Photos

Sweets are an almost inevitable feature of the holiday season, but strategies can soften their impact on the waistline. Fill up on soup or a high-fiber snack before hitting a party stocked with cookies.

The season for family, friends and festivities is in full swing. It’s also the season for food – lots of it. According to the National Institutes of Health, holiday eating can result in an extra pound or two every year, which, over time, can add up.

While the tried and true advice of eating (and drinking) in moderation always applies, there are also a number of easy substitutions you can make – whether you are hosting or attending a party this holiday season – that will allow you and your guests to enjoy the merriment without packing on the unnecessary pounds.

• Crunchy and nutritious. Rather than serve the high-calorie butter crackers and cheese (70-100 calories per serving), substitute with either pita and hummus or fresh vegetables. Not only will they cut calories by one-fourth, but the colors will brighten up any holiday table.

• It’s not nuts to substitute. One ounce of nuts can run nearly 175 calories. A great alternative is small pretzel twists – eight of them are only 160 calories, and they contain far less sodium, as well.

• Have your cake and eat it, too. Instead of pecan pie or cheesecake, serve angel food cake (70-100 calories) and top with fresh berries or low-fat sorbet. Search Food.com for a low-calorie pumpkin recipe for that special holiday flavor.

• Eggnog or egg-not? The holidays wouldn’t be the same without this festive beverage. Instead of an entire cup of regular eggnog, which can run 340 calories or more, offer low-fat eggnog (approximately 150 calories) or even sugar-free hot chocolate (60 calories).

• A wine spritzer toast. Add 4 ounces of seltzer water to 4 ounces of wine for a sparkling, delicious and low-calorie (80 calories) alternative to a traditional 8-ounce glass of wine (165 calories).

• Fresh breath, overeating deterrent. After eating, having a mint or gum will reduce the temptation to consume more food.

Watching the waistline

In addition to these substitutions, following are tips and tricks to help you get through any holiday gathering with your waistline intact.

• Eat a high-fiber snack or a bowl of broth before a party so that you don’t arrive hungry.

• Before you dig in, walk around the party, take note of the food options and then make three or four selections.

• Instead of filling a large plate, use a small plate or even a napkin to keep your portions manageable.

• After you’ve selected your three or four items, step away from the buffet and take the opportunity to meet and mingle with other guests or check out the decor.

• Focus on the passed hors d’oeuvres. Passed items are usually fancier and more expensive. These items can offer a more interesting and satisfying meal, which may help you eat less.

Most important this holiday season, be realistic with yourself about your health goals and have a plan. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy the time with family and friends and kick off the new year with a healthful start.

Jodi Bjurman, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, is outpatient nutrition expert at El Camino Hospital.

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