Stay on track with healthy holiday food goals

The holiday season is here, which means family, friends, presents, traditions and – of course – food.  Eating healthy can be a challenge when the aroma of Grandma’s cookies is in the air.  The average American gains weight during the holiday season, but this does not have to be the case for you with a few helpful hints.

Going into the New Year, it is good to start thinking about goals.  Try setting a target goal weight and/or exercise or nutrition goal.  Increase your chances of accomplishing that goal by writing it down or even creating a vision board to motivate you through this busy time of year. Another motivator may be to find a friend or family member to help keep you accountable in your healthy ways.

Before attending a holiday gathering, ask the host if you can bring a healthy offering such as a relish dish or appetizer.  Having healthy snack foods for guests to munch on is key to keeping calorie intakes at a minimum.  Snacks containing both fiber and protein are excellent in curbing hunger and may help you reduce calories.  Beans and nuts are both great choices. A tasty option to consider is a healthy bean dip like hummus; see the recipe below for a fun variation.  Another idea is putting out a dish of shelled pistachios, this month’s dietitian pick. They contain heart-healthy fat and are a fun holiday snack to munch on.  Make a festive sweet pairing with pistachios, strawberries, and dark chocolate.  Pistachios also pair great with a combination of cheese and dried fruit.

When it comes to the main course, survey the offerings and make a decision about what you should have and what you could do without.  When dishing up, remember to follow the MyPlate illustration in order to portion accordingly and eat from all of the five food groups.  Another thing to be mindful of is that it takes 15 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you are full.  When you have your food, start a conversation with someone to slow down your eating.

We often want to try all of the desserts.  Instead, try picking one dessert.  Studies show that people who deprive themselves of certain foods often do not do as well when trying to manage their weight.  So do not feel bad about eating dessert as long as you keep it well portioned.

After your big meal, invite others to be active.  This activity will take your mind off the leftovers.  Plus, it will make you feel better about yourself knowing that you took extra steps toward a healthier you!

Happy Holidays from Hy-Vee!

Hummus-Stuffed Mini Bells

Serves 4 (2 peppers each)

All you need:

1/2 cup hummus

1 tbsp chopped Kalamata olives

8 mini bell peppers, cored

All you do:

1. Combine hummus and olives. Stuff each pepper with about 1 tablespoon of the hummus.

Make-Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 74 calories, 4g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 150mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 3g protein.

Daily values: 36% vitamin A, 121% vitamin C, 6% iron.

Source: adapted from EatingWell, Inc.

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The information is not intended as medical advice.

Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Laura Schmidt is a registered dietitian representing Hy-Vee as a nutrition expert promoting healthy eating throughout the community.

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