December 2, 2011


LEWISBURG, Tenn. — Delicious foods seem to be around every corner during the holiday season, but the tasty offerings can make it difficult to stay on track with healthy eating habits. According to the American Dietetic Association, Americans gain an average of one to two pounds during the holidays. Marshall Medical Center (MMC) offers some suggestions for maintaining a healthy diet and keeping off extra pounds while enjoying holiday cheer.

“Studies show that the extra weight that is sometimes gained over the holidays tends to stay with us. Over time, this can add up to several pounds of unwanted weight,” said Keri Howell, a registered dietitian who sees patients at MMC. “By keeping nutrition at the forefront and avoiding foods that are high in fat and sugar, it is easier to stay on track and avoid weight gain.”

Howell offers a few simple tips to maintain a healthy diet during the holidays:

  • Look for healthy substitutes for ingredients in your holiday dishes. Use low-fat or skim milk products instead of whole milk products, or try swapping applesauce for oil in your baked goods.
  • Avoid grazing while cooking. The small bites we sometimes take while working in the kitchen can add up and stack on extra calories.
  • Do not skip meals. Missing meals, especially breakfast, can lead to overeating for the remainder of the day.
  • Snack before you arrive at a party. You are more likely to overeat if you are hungry when you arrive at a holiday gathering.
  • Prepare a healthy dish. Bringing a tossed salad, vegetable plate or fruit dish to a holiday party will ensure that there is a healthy option for you and your friends.
  • Use a smaller plate. This allows you to put less food on the plate and to keep portion sizes within healthy limits.
  • Eat slowly. Savor each bite as you eat and wait several minutes before considering a second helping.
  • Alternate drinking alcoholic beverages with water. Not only will you reduce the number of calories that you consume, you’ll also have a safer night.
  • Mingle. Don’t stand near the food table all night where you may be tempted to go back for seconds.
  • Get physical. After eating, consider taking a walk with friends or family members or join young people in a game or other activity.

According to Howell, poor eating habits that are formed during the holiday

season can have a long term impact on our diet. “It’s best to decide when you are going to treat yourself to a special food and stay with that plan without going overboard,” Howell said. “For most people, a few holiday treats can be combined with an overall healthy diet without problem.”