Have a happy, healthy holiday

By Danae Zarbuck

Our society is surrounded by food. We eat food on every occasion – birthdays, weddings and holidays – and for every purpose – survival, socialization and boredom.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are definitely two holidays at which Americans eat the most. According to the National Turkey Federation, approximately 46 million turkeys were eaten on Thanksgiving and 22 million were eaten on Christmas in 2010.

And this is just the main dish. What about all the sides? Cranberries, stuffing, green bean casserole, ham, sweet potatoes, pie, cake, etc. fill our plates and our stomachs during the holidays.

A common myth is that Americans gain an additional seven to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. However, the average American gains only about one pound during the holiday season, according to the American Dietetic Association in November, 2011. In fact, only 5 percent of the population actually gains the seven to 10 pounds.

How can you make sure you stay trim during this holiday season and not become part of the 5 percent?

Here are five easy tips to help you avoid those unwanted pounds.

1. Eat small amounts of your favorite snacks.
This is very key, especially when attending holiday parties that have a smorgasbord of delicacies. Instead of piling your plate high, pick out a few things that look really good and take a small helping of each. Fill the rest of your plate with veggies or whole-wheat crackers and cheese.

2. Avoid hanging out by the food table.
For many people, if food is nearby, they will eat it. This is why chilling by the food table can be a bad idea. By standing by the food during a party, you are more likely to increase you caloric intake, even if all you are eating is snack items. Calories add up fast! Spend your time socializing with the people around you, not loitering by the food.

3. Don’t eat like it’s going out of style.
When you arrive at a party, do not immediately run to the food table and devour three plates full of hors d’oeuvres and mini desserts. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize you are full. Take a small plate of food and slowly munch on it. You will come to find out you are actually full before you decide to head toward the buffet one more time.

4. Eat a filling food before attending a party or get-together.
Eating a healthy snack before you get to the party will help you not eat as much during the party. By eating a snack, like some fruit or a slice of whole-grain bread with peanut butter, you are getting food in your stomach, so by the time you arrive at the party, your brain thinks your stomach is on its way to being full, so you will be less inclined to eat as much.

5. Drink plenty of water.
Not only is this a good tip for everyday life, but it is especially important during the holiday season. Mild dehydration can come across as feeling hungry, but instead of food, all you really need is a glass of water. Drinking water while eating also helps your stomach better digest your food.

So, enjoy the holidays this year. Make sure to plan time for activities and be conscious of recipes you prepare, but do not restrict yourself from eating your favorite holiday dishes.

Danae Zarbuck is a dietetics major and can be reached at dzarbuck@live.olivet.edu.

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