The holidays are a time to enjoy family, friends and good food, but many of us worry that the foods we crave during these festive times aren’t always good for us.
Kelly Morrow, MS, RD, CD, a cre faculty member in Basty University's Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science, says that much of our holiday tradition revolves around calorie-rich foods, but she adds that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
"The holidays only come around once a year, and I think it's perfectly appropriate to indulge and have fun with your friends and family," says Morrow, who also is clinical supervisor at the University's Seattle teaching clinic Bastyr Center for Natural Health. However, if overindulging comes at a cost you'd rather not pay, or if you simply want to stick to a healthier diet, she offers four tips to help you take a healthier approach to the holidays.
Don't Show Up Hungry
Plan ahead for parties by eating a light meal beforehand with enough protein, vegetables and whole grains to keep you satiated all night long.
"If you're really trying to prevent overindulging, the best thing to do is to make sure you’re not hungry when you go to a party," Morrow says. "If you're hungry — especially if you're very hungry — that's usually a recipe for overeating."
Socialize Away from the Cookies
"Be aware of where you stand at the party," Morrow says. "Don't stand and socialize by the cookies because whatever is in your line of sight is going to be a lot harder to resist."
But if you really want that cookie, you should go ahead and enjoy it. "Your health is determined by what you do most of the time, not what you do once in a while," she says. "Just be mindful that with the holidays, sometimes that 'once in a while' turns into an entire month."
Choose One Indulgence
It can be hard to say no to the most popular treats at holiday parties: desserts and alcoholic beverages, which also happen to be among the highest in calories.
But rather than giving up both and depriving yourself, Morrow recommends choosing one to indulge in for the night.
Don't want your friends to know you're teetotaling? Try sparkling water with a squeeze of lime!
USDA's "Healthy Plate" Meets the Holidays
If filling your plate is a must, Morrow recommends you either grab a smaller plate or try following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Healthy Plate model.
"Load up your plate with as many vegetable dishes as you can, or hang out at the vegetable tray instead of the dessert tray," she says. "By choosing foods that are lower calorie and healthier, you'll still be eating but you won't be taking in nearly as many calories."
Learn more about avoiding extra calories over the holidays from the following Living Naturally talk "How to Make Healthy Holiday Snacks," by advanced students in Bastyr University’s Master of Science in Nutrition program under Morrow’s supervision:
To make an appointment with a nutrition team at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, please call (206) 834-4100.