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Planning your holiday feast: Be thankful for these healthy eating tips

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat! Then there’s New Year’s and the Super Bowl, but first comes Thanksgiving. Turkey Day starts off the season of wonderful events filled with family, fun, festivities and FOOD.

After it’s all said and done, many of us will have made resolutions to stop overeating and lose some weight. Unfortunately, the effects of overeating are hard to overcome as your body gets used to all the extra food and calories. Add to that, our children are watching us — their role models — overindulge.

Have a strategy in place

A good way to approach the holiday food season in the have a strategy in place beforehand to help ward off consuming too many calories. Part of that plan can include holiday activities that families can do together out of the kitchen and away from the table.

  • Exercise: Work up an appetite and burn some extra calories by doing a Turkey Day race. Take walks together as a family and watch the trees become beautiful with autumn colors, and later, see the snow start to fall. Wisconsin weather requires lots of layers — hats, mittens, etc. — but usually it’s still OK to go outside for a bit.
  • Crafts: Magazines and websites are filled with great ideas for decorations that you can proudly display around the house, or even centerpieces you could take to the big family gathering.
  • Volunteer: Help your children understand the spirit and meaning of the holidays by serving a meal at a homeless shelter or a church. Spend a little time at the local food pantry or community center. Sponsor a family who otherwise would not have any gifts to open on Christmas morning. Read or sing carols to the elderly, who may be lonely or alone over the holiday season.

Plan ahead

When it does come time for the food, enjoy the feast, but plan ahead for healthier eating by following these tips:

  • Appetizers: The battle to eat well and in moderation is often lost early as we load up on hefty, fat-loaded appetizers that we tend to eat mindlessly. Skip the appetizers altogether and time your meal so that guests are hungry but not starving. Otherwise, search for recipes that cut down on fat, sugar and salt.
  • Portion control: Think small! Honor a serving size of ¼ cup so that you can have a little bit of everything. Put food on your plate leaving space between food items. Eat slowly, savoring the wonderful meal and relishing the time at the table with friends and family. Rest, relax, converse, and go back for seconds only after 20 minutes so you can give your brain time to register that you have eaten.
  • Dessert: If you ask me, dessert is the best part of any meal. Often during the holidays there are lots of dessert choices at one meal. Serve yourself just a bite or two of each dessert if you cannot decide on just one. If one is enough, keep the serving size small.
  • Beverages: Cut cost and calories by serving water. Embellish your pitcher of water with lemon wedges and lots of ice for a refreshing beverage with a little added color and vitamin C.
  • Teeth: Once the meal is over, brush your teeth. Not only will your teeth be free of cavity-causing carbohydrates, but you will cue your brain that mealtime is over.

No one is saying you can’t indulge a little. But a little planning can go a long way in avoiding the January blues brought on by extra pounds gained over the holidays. Moderation is the key to success, along with exercise and a spirit of giving. Enjoy!