Archive for Monday, December 1, 2008

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Holidays don’t provide excuse for eating unhealthy meals

If you want to avoid gaining weight between now and New Year's Day, you have to watch more than just what you eat.

December 1, 2008

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Getting into the holiday spirit doesn’t mean forgetting to eat healthy and loading up on some treats that may be naughty and not nice.

The worst holiday food? Without a doubt, pecan pie, says Gina Fisch, owner of Perfect Balance Weight Management Centers in Lawrence and Overland Park. Fisch says that one slice of pecan pie could easily have 600 calories and 27 grams of fat.

But one slice of pecan pie won’t make or break a healthy eating program, she says. It’s important to take a step back and figure out where you want to spend your calories during the holiday season.

“It’s a holiday, and you should enjoy yourself,” Fisch says. “But look for foods specific to the holiday. Don’t waste calories on ordinary foods that you can get any day of the week.”

Connie Detweiler, family nutrition program assistant at the Douglas County Extension Office, says that every food is OK in small amounts. She says the best way to eat healthy during the holidays is simple: Head for the fruits and veggies.

“A trick is to fill your plate with colors, which would be fruits and vegetables, and then fill it with other things,” Detweiler says.

But Detweiler says it’s also easy to take a healthy fruit or vegetable salad and load it with calories by adding too much mayonnaise or marshmallows. It’s just as easy to drink all your calories, she says. Fruit punches often have lots of added sugar, and alcoholic beverages offer very little nutritional value.

Fisch says the Thanksgiving turkey, especially the white meat, offered one of the healthiest holiday food options.

“The turkey is a lean, healthy meat, and the protein can help burn off the other things that are coming on the way,” Fisch says.

Making holiday recipes lower in sugar and fat helps both host and guests eat healthier, Detweiler says. Using low-fat or nonfat sour creams and making mashed potatoes without butter and with low-fat milk are two healthier options.

“If you go to a party and can bring something, bring something that you can and want to eat that is tasty but is healthy,” Detweiler says.

Eating breakfast is important, she says, so that you can go to a holiday event with a moderate amount of hunger.

“It’s important to eat throughout the day, so that you’re not super hungry,” Detweiler says. “If you go to the party super hungry, you’re likely to eat more.”

But when the turkey is finished and bellies are full, Fisch says exercise is just as important as healthy eating.

“I would encourage everyone to go for a walk or play some football,” she says. “We’re all going to eat more than we need, so we need to burn it off.”

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