Tips for healthy holiday eating

The holidays can be a tough time for families to eat healthy and to avoid gaining a few extra pounds with all the treats on display. Planning ahead is key to know what kinds of food and actions are good for your body and what isn't. Check some tips below so that you and your family can have a healthy and happier holiday season!

Menus

Before you prepare your meals, you should examine your menus. Do you have traditional dishes that you make every year? Think of some ways you can make your traditional holiday foods healthier. Will that casserole taste just as good with fat-free or light sour cream? Can you steam the green beans this year instead of sautéing them in butter? There are plenty of ways to lower fat, sugar, and carbohydrates in your favorite foods while still keeping the taste you love.

Portion Distortion

Learn how to avoid holiday weight gain by watching portion sizes. During the holiday season, when gatherings are often centered on food, weight gain can seem unavoidable. But watching portion sizes can help prevent those extra pounds. Keep your portions small so you can enjoy most foods. Don't use eating out or special occasions as an excuse to eat too much. When you eat more calories than your body needs or uses, your body saves it as fat.

There is the right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you are trying to gain, maintain or lose weight. A value of 2,000 calories is used as a general reference on the food label, but you can find out the number of calories you need on the World Wide Web at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines or you can talk to your health care provider.

Figure out ways to eat more fruits and vegetables this holiday season and throughout the year.

Adding more vegetables to your meals is a great idea for everyone and the holidays are a perfect time to get started. We all want to dress the table with plenty of tempting treats. Often the menu's vegetable section has the fewest options of all. Vegetables are a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals. Most vegetables are low in carbohydrates, making them great choices for people with diabetes.

Asparagus is a good vegetable choice because it is high in vitamins A and C, low in fat, and a good source of fiber. Another great option is any type of squash. Squash can be eaten year round because there are winter varieties as well as summer ones. Squash contains vitamin A, C, some B vitamins, iron and calcium. Winter squash is especially high in vitamin A. Whether you serve steamed or grilled zucchini (squash) as a side dish or as a main part of your meal, it's a very nutritious addition to your menu planning.

Also, a good rule of thumb with vegetables is that healthy meals are made up of colorful foods. Bright colors in natural foods like tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and green vegetables mean they contain antioxidants -- food substances that help prevent disease. Usually, the deeper the color of the food, the more nutritious it is.

Although vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals, some vegetables really belong in the "starch" section of the food pyramid. Watch out for potatoes, corn, and other starchy vegetables because they are high in carbohydrates and raise blood glucose levels more than leafy greens and other veggie options.

Eat more whole grains.

This is whole wheat breads, bran cereals, whole grain cereals, wild rice, brown rice, and oatmeal. Look for the word "100% whole grain" on the label. Whole grains have more vitamins and more fiber and are better for you and your kids than foods made with white flour. Try making holiday breads with some 100% whole wheat flour. Have 100% whole wheat rolls instead of those made with white flour.

Do not eat foods that have trans fat in them.

This type of fat is not good for your blood. Look for hydrogenated oil or polyhydrogenated oil on the ingredient list and avoid foods that are made with this ingredient. .

Watch how much salt you eat.

Do not use the salt shaker if you eat a lot of processed foods, foods from bags, boxes or cans, or fast food. They put a lot of salt in those foods already. Slowly train your taste buds to need less and less salt. This holiday start a healthy family habit by using lemons or Dash brand salt replacement to flavor vegetables instead of table salt.

Try to avoid sweetened beverages that contain "high fructose corn syrup."

Try to avoid all regular sodas and other sweetened drinks. Instead, drink lots of water. For flavor, you can add lemons or try calorie-free sparkling water for some fizz.

Yes, you still need to exercise!

Exercise helps you control your body weight by balancing the calories you take in as food with the calories you burn off each day. It keeps your mind and body healthy! It will also help with the stress the holiday season may bring.

The new recommendations state that if you want to lose weight you probably need to do some moderate intensity exercise (breathing heavy but still able to talk) for at least 60 -90 minutes on most days. To keep your weight where it is now you need to exercise at least 60 minutes a day. To help prevent some chronic diseases (such as heart disease and diabetes) you should try to exercise at least 30 minutes per day along with a healthy diet. Children and teenagers should be physically active for 60 minutes every day. For further questions about exercise and to help develop an exercise program that is best suited for you, talk with your health care provider.

Following all or some of the tips above should help you and your family as you prepare for a healthier happier holiday season this year!

The article above is based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and Healthy Meal Planning from the American Diabetes Association

Fall Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

Makes 8 servings.

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup cranberries

1/4 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons white sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pinch freshly ground black pepper

2 heads romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried and torn into bite sized pieces

2 medium heads Belgian endive - washed, dried and chopped

2 red Anjou pears

½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped

½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Directions

1 In a saucepan, combine vinegar and cranberries. Cook over medium heat until cranberries soften. Remove from heat; add olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Place in blender and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until chilled.

2 Core and julienne one pear core and dice the other.

3 In a large bowl, combine the Romaine lettuce, endive, diced pears, walnuts and Gorgonzola. Toss and drizzle with enough dressing to coat.

4 Divide among salad plates and garnish with julienne pear. Top with any additional walnuts as well.

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