Five tips to balance health and holidays

By Carol Taylor, MCN, RDN, LD | Registered Dietitian and Journalist

The holiday season has swirled in, bringing parties, potlucks, family gatherings, and festive dinners. While breaking bread with those you love gifts so much of the joys of the season, we can feel like we’ve busted our budgets and our pants before it’s all done.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can enjoy what the season greets us with while keeping our health in line with our heart and our happiness. Here are five tips on balancing the season’s goodies with good health practices.

FOCUS ON FIBER. Eating foods high in fiber can help us feel fuller and help manage our gut health as well as providing a host of other benefits. How to do that? At breakfast, opt for whole grains such as oatmeal or whole grain cereal and fruit over pastries. Or choose 100% whole wheat toast with peanut butter. For lunch, try a whole grain wrap with leftover roasted vegetables or whole grain bread stacked with vegetables. Eat beans, peas, or lentils 3-4 times per week. Choose brown rice, quinoa, barley, or wild rice instead of potatoes or white rice as your starch at meals.

GO GOOD WITH THE GREENS. Leafy greens provide vitamins A, C and K; potassium; folate; and antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation. Include at least one serving a day of leafy greens. Plan to have side dish of leafy greens such as collards, a salad, or sautéed spinach or Swiss chard at the big family meals. Choose steamed or roasted broccoli instead of broccoli rice and cheese casserole as a side dish. (Let’s be honest, the casserole has mostly rice and cheese and only flecks of broccoli.)

NUT-THING BUT GOODNESS. At parties and gathers, grab a handful of nuts instead of a couple of handfuls of chips or crackers. Nuts are full of heart-healthy fats as well as fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Try sliced or slivered almonds or toasted pecans as a crunchy topping in place of fried onion rings to dress up salads and side dishes. Toasted nuts can also be a terrific way to finish a meal instead of sweets.

SAVOR YOUR FAVORITES AND PASS ON THE REST. Mindfully eat foods you genuinely enjoy and pass on those you like only a little. Still even with the foods you love, watch the portion size, and save the second helping for the next day.

THINK OUT YOUR DRINKS. The calories and sugar can really add up with the festive drinks, even the nonalcoholic party punches. Choose water and unsweetened drinks throughout the day and at events. If you are of legal age and choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Keep in mind, even a single drink may affect your reflexes and impulses for hours. And alcoholic drinks are not calorie free. 

The holidays are about love and gifts. So, love yourself and take care of your body with healthy foods and physical activity so you can feel your best and keep a steady supply of positive energy. Because health is the gift that keeps on giving and never goes out of style.

Carol Taylor, photographed May 28, 2013. Employee Mugs (Evans Caglage/The Dallas Morning News)

Photo: Pixabay

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