Friday, December 08, 2006


Healthy holiday habits

Food is often the center of celebrating the holidays. It is part of enjoying time with family and friends. Give the gift of health to yourself and your family this year. Here are some healthy holiday habits to get started.

Be realistic: Let go of guilt. Try to avoid the all or nothing mindset. Deprivation is not the answer – moderation and balance are key. Fill your plate with vegetables and fruits first and save a little room for favorites. Most people stress out about losing weight. Instead you may want to focus on not gaining or maintaining. The stressful holiday season is often not the most ideal time to achieve such a goal.

Be physically active every day. Now more important than ever: exercise is your ally! Take a walk. Don’t look for the closest parking spot when holiday shopping. Exercise is a win-win: it relieves stress and burns calories. Try for 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day.

Plan ahead. Arriving at a party famished could be a recipe for overindulgence. And never go all day with out eating to “allow” you to overindulge at a holiday dinner. Plan small meals the day of your event/party and a light snack before you go. Yogurt, fruit, rice cakes or a handful of walnuts are quick picks. To avoid overeating at your party, visualize what and how much you will eat before you go. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Hunger may simply be thirst in disguise.

Think whole grains, vegetables and fruits first. Whole grain foods have not gone through a lot of processing. Once they are refined, grains lose a lot of their nutritional value. When purchasing whole grain foods, look for words such as “whole grain,” “stone ground,” “whole ground,” “whole wheat flour,” “whole oat flour,” and “whole barley flour” on the ingredient list. Products with the word “enriched,” are not considered a whole grain. Make a Whole grain stuffing with 100% wheat bread, sautéed veggies in a small amount of olive oil and vegetable broth…instead of the traditional refined grains and butter. Choose more vegetables and fruits on your plate, instead of meat or poultry.

Trim recipes of extra fat. Egg substitute in place of whole eggs, applesauce in place of oil, non-fat yogurt or soy in place of sour cream. Replace butter in stuffing with fat-free vegetable or chicken broth. Sweet potatoes are sweet enough…but you could flavor with a bit of apple juice, ground cinnamon in place of butter and marshmallows. Use skim milk or soy milk, garlic and a little Parmesan cheese in mashed potatoes. For an appetizer or snack: try making hummus for dipping veggies and whole wheat pitas. You will be serving up fiber and phytonutrients rather than high fat sour cream based dips. American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is one really great recipe resource, along with the Cancer Project.

Try something new. Introduce a new dish to your family and friends. How often do we all make the same things? Be adventurous. Look for recipes that center ingredients around whole grain, vegetables and fruits.

Achieve perspective. Relax and remember to keep the meaning of the season in mind. Enjoy the holidays and not just the special holiday foods. Plan ahead and watch portion sizes. Remember your keys: Balance and moderation, and keep in mind that overeating on special occasions is not cause for despair.

Renee Frechette is a registered dietitian who serves as the outpatient oncology dietitian in the The William W. Backus Hospital’s Radiation Therapy Center. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Frechette and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

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