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Healthy Eating During the Holidays

Do you struggle to stick with a healthy diet while enjoying yearend celebrations? If so, you are certainly not alone. Give these tips a try to help maintain healthy habits during the holiday season.

Focus on Balance: A big part of being healthy is eating a balanced diet. We’ve all heard that before, but let’s talk about what it means and how to make good balanced choices.

Fruits and Vegetables: The average adult needs 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A good rule of thumb is to try and fill half your holiday plate with fruits and veggies.

Protein: Protein is also vital to maintaining your body and your health, so aim to have at least one serving (about a quarter of a plate) of protein at each meal. Try to choose lean protein options like turkey, chicken and most fish.

Whole Grains: Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain. You can make a big difference in your overall health and weight by simply substituting whole grains over refined grains. Whole grain foods contain fiber, which causes food to stay in your stomach longer so you feel full. The process of refining a food not only removes the fiber but much of the food’s nutritional value as well.

Dairy: It is recommended that adults eat 3 servings of dairy a day. Look for lower fat dairy options in your grocery store, such as skim and low-fat milk, and part-skim cheeses.

Changes to your diet don’t have to occur overnight. Focusing on one healthy decision at a time and then steadily adding in additional healthy habits will put you on the path to better health, and health risk factors will be reduced over time. Apply the 80/20 rule by making healthy food choices 80% of the time during the holidays. Apply the 80/20 rule to your food choices! For example, if you eat 21 meals per week (3 meals per day), 4 of those meals can contain a special treat. This way, you are less likely to miss out on some of the special holiday treats available only this time of year.

Be a Conscious Eater: One of the best ways to control WHAT you eat is to control WHEN you eat. The best time to eat is not a TIME at all, it is when your body tells you it is ready for food. If you eat when your body is hungry, you will have the best chance to burn and use the food you eat. Practice recognizing when you feel hungry by listening to your body’s hunger signals and then be prepared to feed it! This is the window of time when your body will best use the energy and nutrients you give it through the food you eat.

Meal Planning: Planning what you are going to eat for the week will help you eat the right foods. Have a plan!

  • Plan for a Big Meal. If you are headed to a holiday party later and know that there will be loads of great things to eat, choose to eat less or lower calorie foods throughout the day and save your calories for the party ahead.

  • Pack your lunch. Bringing your lunch to work is a great way to manage what you eat. Pack a balanced healthy lunch with foods you love instead of picking up something at a local restaurant. You’ll save calories and money!

  • Eating out plan. Think about what you will eat before you go out, so you can work the restaurant meal into your overall daily or weekly healthy eating plan.

  • Indulge gracefully. Distinguish between special and ordinary meals, especially if you eat out frequently or will be around the many treats available during the holidays. At this time of year it’s important to enjoy celebratory foods with moderation and continue to have fun!

  • Hydrate! Drinking water is not only important for basic body functions but can also help with weight management, brain function, digestion and overall health! Incorporating more water into your diet can stimulate body mechanisms that make you feel full. When water is included with meals, the body takes a longer time to absorb food. Slower absorption means the food sits longer in your stomach and extends the feeling of fullness. Try drinking a glass of water before each meal to help yourself feel full. You will eat less and the water will support digestion of your food. In general, strive to get at least eight glasses of water a day. A “glass” of water is 8 ounces. Drink 2-3 glasses before you leave for work, another 2-3 during work, a glass before dinner, a glass after dinner and you’ve got your water intake for the day!


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