Heidi Katte, MS, RD, CD, is an instructor in MATC’s dietetic technician associate degree program

While the holiday season approaches, the anticipation of the season looms.  How will I fit everything in between visiting family and friends and shopping and wrapping …?  Another question that may creep into your mind might be, ‘how will I fit into that holiday outfit?’  Eating healthfully over the holidays may present with some challenges.  However, if you face the challenge well equipped with the knowledge and will to make the wise choices, the only question that will be asked is “How do I spread more holiday cheer?”

The three main goals for surviving the holidays and adding this cheer without adding to your waistline involves identifying healthy dining tips, foods to limit and increase, and how to balance it all.  The key to balanced eating is increased awareness of food intake.  Remember to keep food choices nutrient rich, find extra fat and sodium in foods and avoid them.  Consider eating before an event to feel satisfied and not to go to the holiday event hungry which may lead to eating more.

A unique strategy to approach dining out at holiday parties would be to find smaller plates and use them.  It helps you feel satisfied when choices are being made.  It appears that the plate is more full therefore preventing you from taking extra portions.  If you choose not to eat the decadent item at the party whatever it may be,  you may likely eat everything else on the buffet table except that item.  Ultimately, you may eat that item because that is what you originally wanted.  Have the decadent item but just a smaller piece of it.

Choose vegetables and find these colorful choices first, and this will help manage your overall calorie intake.  Vegetables are a good source of fiber and fiber helps with making you feel full.  Use this strategy to your advantage throughout the holiday season.  Watch the creamed dips that they tend to be paired with however, this is where the fat and sodium are hidden.  Look for hummus or low-fat yogurt dips instead.

Be aware of beverage choices you are making.  This is an easy way to add extra calories without being aware of it. Alcoholic beverages have empty calories and add little benefit.  Watch portions, add water, and limit extra sugared beverages, sodas, juices and ice cream drinks.

Embrace the social element of eating for the holidays, but be aware of the fact that you can tend to eat more by talking, engaging and interacting around food.  Be aware of your relationship with food.  A positive relationship such as eating for the nutrition of it and fuel that food provides is healthy.  A negative reactive eating behavior which is triggered by stress factors and emotions is unhealthy.  Understand your relationship when eating during the holidays.  Doing this as well as employing some suggestions provided in this article will have you spreading healthy holiday cheer.  Best wishes to your and yours this holiday season!