Healthy holiday suggestions you can live with

-A A +A

Several days a week I meet a great group of women early in the morning for a one-hour walk. We’ve been doing this for more than five years and I highly recommend it.
Having friends to walk and talk with makes exercising easier. There’s also that peer pressure that encourages me to get out of bed. It’s also a great way to share ideas.
A couple of weeks ago, we were talking about Thanksgiving and all the food. Several commented that it’s really hard to avoid all the excess food that’s around during this season of the year.
We’re all trying to get through this holiday season without gaining weight. The fact that we already exercise gives us a “running start” (or perhaps that should be walking start) on that goal.
The media is full of additional suggestions from “experts” that offer lots of healthy holiday eating advice. Often this advice (while well meaning) is unrealistic and not festive.
I recently read a great article by the folks at Eat Right Montana. This is a group of professionals and organizations in Montana that have come together with the common goal of providing consistent, science-based nutrition information to Montanans. They are generous and willing to share their practical ideas with those of us that don’t live in Montana.
They seem to have a more realistic approach to eating healthy throughout the year.
They call the holidays a “nutrition minefield” where it seems like every event or celebration involves food or drink or both. Oh, so true.
Daryl Hayes, RD, LD spokeswoman for the Montana program, says that lots of folks tend to “throw caution to the wind” and gobble up everything in sight, with plans of dieting after the first of the new year.
As we all know, that plan hardly ever works. She reminds us one day of overeating or not having time to exercise is not an excuse to completely give up on a healthy plan.
Here are a couple of her ideas on how to stay healthy this time of year. They make sense to me.

Prevent overeating by not getting overly hungry
It is difficult, if not impossible, to make smart food choices when you are super hungry. Deprivation naturally leads to overeating at parties or buffets filled with tempting goodies.
Instead of starving before parties, eat regular meals and have a protein snack before you go out. A cup of soup, a string cheese, a piece of beef jerky or a handful of nuts work well.

Eat and drink slowly
while listening to internal cues of satiety (fullness)
When you eat too quickly or while doing other things, it’s easy to overeat—past the point of pleasure and even past the point of physical comfort. Real satisfaction comes from eating slowly, from savoring the aromas, textures and flavors of food, and from letting your body say, “that’s plenty,” before you are overly stuffed.

Take a time-out from food to check your stress levels
Much of our usual holiday eating and drinking has nothing to do with hunger or fullness. It’s a way to cope with tense situations or difficult people.
If this happens to you, move away from the food and spend some quality time with a friend, or walk around the block. Often, this is all it takes to realize that stuffing more food will make you feel worse rather than better.
Savor those special foods and then go for a walk. Great advice. Physical activity is even more important during the holidays. Being active not only helps relieve holiday stress, it helps balance out that usual increase in holiday calories.
I plan to put activity into my days, preferably with family and friends. Are these ideas you can live with?

Source: EatRightMontana.org.

Cheryle Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at NC Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, at 253-2610.