Extension offers tips on indulgence during the winter holidays

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

From late November to the first of January, winter holidays can bring a feeling of dread as people encounter lots of different opportunities to over-indulge.

Dr. Pam Duitsman, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension, says there are several things that can help lessen the risk.

"First of all, consider incorporating traditions that focus on having fun, not on the food," said Duitsman. "For example, select an activity or game that everyone will enjoy. Depending on the weather, an outdoor activity might be ideal."

Active ideas include sledding, ice skating, touch football, horseshoes, or taking a walk to admire the neighborhood's holiday decorations.

If indoors, involve everyone in an art project or holiday decorating, play charades, a board game, or sing carols.

"These types of activities can keep minds off of eating, and build great shared memories of holidays spent together," Duitsman said.

If you host a party, be sure to offer healthy options for drinks.

"Eggnog, wassail, hot chocolate, and other traditional holiday drinks can pack a lot of calories. Ensure there are other options available, like unsweetened flavored teas, sparkling water or a large pitcher of water with frozen or fresh cranberries, or slices of lemon or lime," Duitsman said.

Be aware that alcohol is loaded with calories, lowers inhibitions and can increase hunger.

Many people are also surprised to learn that starting an evening with heavy appetizers leads to overeating, and leaves everyone with a heavy lethargic feeling.

"Instead, try light appetizers like shrimp cocktails, crudite, fruit skewers or reduced-fat sharp cheese cubes. In most cases, no one will notice the difference," Duitsman said.

It is also possible to shave off calories by substituting healthier ingredients into recipes.

For example, use light cream cheese, yogurt and sour cream; low-fat milk; fat free chicken stock. Roasted Brussel sprouts or sweet potatoes might be welcome delicious changes to heavy casseroles and side dishes.

"Planning ahead is important. Anticipate that you will be consuming additional calories at holiday events, and trim what you eat at regular meals. Eat just enough throughout the day to take the edge off of your hunger, so you don't arrive hungry," Duitsman said.

Another trick is to drink plenty of water.

"Remember, it's not your responsibility to sample everything. But, do enjoy your favorites within reason, and without guilt.

"Instead of grazing at the buffet, a good option is to place food on a small plate, take small bites, take your time, and savor flavors. Fill up on healthier options, and take only small portions of the less healthy," Duitsman said.

It is also a good idea to wait 15 minutes before considering going back for seconds.

"Your brain may need to catch up that you're no longer hungry. Pop a stick of gum in your mouth when you don't want to eat anymore," Duitsman said.

Last but not least, don't forget to get some physical activity every day during the holidays.

"This will help to lower stress levels and control cravings. If you can't carve out 20 to 30 minutes, then take a 10 minute brisk walk two or three times a day," Duitsman said.

For more information on nutrition contact the Barry County Extension Office at 417-847-3161. Nutrition information is also available online at http://extension.missouri.edu.