Many of our holiday traditions and events involve food. Choices abound — whether it’s pumpkin pie, chocolate cookies or turkey — and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget your health.
In addition, we tend to be busier with friends, family and social activities. The result is less exercise and more time “eating on the run.” There is also an increase in foods rich in calories, fat, sugar and salt.
These combined factors can contribute to wider waists.
Researchers have found that the average holiday weight gain is 1-2 pounds, and people usually don't lose that weight, which adds up over the years.
Whether you celebrate Hanukah, Christmas or Kwanza, here are some ideas to incorporate into your holiday festivities:
•If you bake holiday treats, prepare enough for just one event or give leftovers away. Keeping extra goodies around is too tempting.
•Prepare a low or reduced-fat dish to take to holiday gatherings.
•Eat a light, healthy snack before heading out to parties where food will be the focus. This will help curb your hunger and help you make better choices.
•Don’t hover around the buffet table. Make your selections and then move away so you’re not tempted to nibble.
•Substitute recipes. Use skim milk or reduced-fat cream cheese, reduce sugar or use an alternative sweetener and replace oils with applesauce. You can make many substitutions that will reduce calories and make dishes more healthful.
•Exercise. Don’t let the holidays interfere with your plans to walk or exercise.
•Watch portions. If you simply must have some of Aunt Sue’s pecan pie, cut a small portion.
•Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. But watch out for those casseroles that may contain lots of fat and calories.
Be more conscious of the foods you eat and you’ll have healthy holidays.
Elaine Courtney is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.