By Rebecca Seratt
You know that feeling? That one where you overdo it on the holiday snacks, desserts, and heavy dinners? Most of us probably do. Combine that with the seemingly too few hours in the day and you may find it hard to stick to your usual exercise routine. After all, indulging in some yummy Christmas treats and curling up on the couch to watch a movie with the family just sounds fun, right?
Of course it does! Enjoying a special treat or two and spending time with loved ones are great things to take time for this holiday season. But you don’t have to come out on the other side of Christmas and begin the New Year feeling like Santa Claus in the poem, “’Twas the Night before Christmas”. With a few helpful hints from myplate.gov, you can help your family and yourself make healthier holiday choices when it comes to the food you eat and you can incorporate some physical activity into your busy schedule.
Some of these tips may overlap a little, but try a few of them and you can avoid the dreaded “jelly belly” syndrome.
Enjoy all the food groups at your celebration – Prepare whole-grain crackers with hummus as an appetizer; add unsalted nuts and black beans to a green-leaf salad; use low-fat milk instead of heavy cream in your casseroles. Share healthier options during your holiday meal.
Make sure your protein is lean – Turkey; roast beef; fresh ham; beans; and some types of fish, such as cod or flounder, are lean protein choices. When serving meats, trim away any fat before cooking. Go easy on the sauces and gravies ? they can be high in saturated fat and sodium.
Cheers to good health – Quench your thirst with low-calorie options. Drink water with lemon or lime slices. Offer seltzer water with a splash of 100 percent fruit juice.
Bake healthier – Use recipes with unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter. Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half. Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt.
Tweak the sweet – For dessert, try baked apples with cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar instead of apple pie. Invite your guests to make their own parfait with colorful sliced fruit and low-fat yogurt.
Be the life of the party – Laugh, mingle, dance, and play games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others.
Make exercise a part of the fun – Make being active part of your holiday tradition. Have fun walking and talking with family and friends after a holiday meal. Give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits such as workout DVDs, running shoes, and reusable water bottles.
Enjoy leftovers – Create delicious new meals with your leftovers. Add turkey to soups or salads. Use extra veggies in omelets, sandwiches, or stews. The possibilities are endless!
Give to others – Spend time providing foods or preparing meals for those who may need a little help. Give food to a local food bank or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter during the holiday season.
Make foods look festive – Decorate foods with nuts or seeds or use new shapes for vegetables. Add a few eye-catching fruits to a favorite dish, serve up a new recipe, or add a sprinkle of almonds or green onions to add just an extra something.
Savor the flavor – Take time to pay attention to the taste of each bite of food. Make small changes in your old recipes or try dishes from another culture to liven things up.
Keep it simple – Have others participate by contributing a prepared dish, helping with the cleanup, or keeping the kids active and moving.
Shop smart to eat smart – Save money by offering foods that fit your budget. Buy in-season produce when it costs less and tastes better. Plan in advance and buy foods on sale.
Be a cheerleader for healthy habits – It’s never too early for adults to set an example. Keep in mind that children follow what the adults around them do — even at parties.
For more suggestions on healthy eating and getting plenty of exercise, call your local Extension office at 989-2103 or like our Facebook page: UT Extension—Chester County.