How to enjoy holiday foods without overdoing it

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Christmas dinner

By Tracy Turner | Ohio State Chow Line

“Do you have any tips on how I can indulge in all the holiday food festivities without overdoing it?”

You aren’t the only one wondering about this issue. With the holidays approaching, many people are concerned about trying to stay healthy while also enjoying all the delicious foods and traditions associated with the many celebrations that are or will be soon occurring.

Many people are looking for ways to either avoid temptation or make better choices that will allow them to maintain a healthy weight while they navigate all the indulgence of the season, said Jenny Lobb, a family and consumer sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

With that in mind, Lobb offers the following tips that can help you enjoy the holidays and still meet your food-related health goals.

Meeting your diet goals during the holidays

  1. Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate dietary guidelines as your guide to healthy eating. MyPlate encourages people to eat more fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, including advocating that people make half of the food on their plate fruits and vegetables. So look for fruits and vegetables when you go to holiday gatherings and when you are planning your own meals. Filling up on those foods first might help you eat less of the other richer foods that you might encounter later.
  2. Plan ahead—whether you are packing a lunch or snacks—for your workday. When you bring your own food, you might be less likely to pass through the break room and indulge in some of the sweets that other people bring in. Plan ahead for any parties you might attend as well. Doing so might help you avoid some of the sweets or rich foods offered there.
  3. Survey your options. If you go to a party, take a look to see what is available before filling up your plate. Then, strategically choose what you want to indulge in.
  4. Keep an eye on your portions. In the words of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “enjoy your foods, but eat less.” You can still enjoy those special holiday treats, but keep an eye on the portions and try not to overdo it. Filling up on fruits and vegetables first might help you stick to smaller portions of the richer foods you choose to eat.
  5. Limit your liquid calories. Lots of holiday drinks such as alcoholic beverages, eggnog, and festive coffee drinks contain more calories and sugar than some desserts. So keep an eye on the beverages that you’re choosing, try to fill up on water first, and then treat those richer drinks more like desserts or sweets.
  6. Lastly, try to understand that not all of your holiday eating habits are going to be perfect, so cut yourself some slack and enjoy the season. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

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