Health Matters…Surviving the Holidays

            These days it seems that everyone must attend at least three Christmas lunches or dinners just by virtue of their social connections – at work, in school, at church, in social clubs, and at family gatherings. With all the temptation of so much food, the ability to maintain a normal waist line and eschew the extra pounds is a challenge. What ideas can we keep in mind to balance social obligations and our own health? Here are five ideas about our eating patterns and five ideas about the food we choose.

            Serving and Table Patterns

            Idea #1 – Avoid eating on a platter. Mexican restaurants specialize in large plates that look more like serving dishes. When in a buffet line or at a table being served, select the smaller plate or ask for a smaller plate – 8 or 10 inches max – especially if the plates they are using seem able to hold one of every item on the menu. Even on holidays, we don’t need to try every dish. In fact, some offerings are best passed by. But more about that later.

            Idea #2 – When placing food on the plate, make sure you can see the edges of the plate all the way around. If you must keep picking up food that is falling off the plate or if you are piling food on top of food, you’ve got too much food. Walk through the serving line – if it seems socially acceptable – and peruse the choices. Decide ahead of time what you will choose and what you will avoid – this time – and stick to your choices.

            Idea #3 – Take one helping and quit – even if it tastes wonderful. Make sure that the helping is of an appropriate size and leaves room on the plate for your other choices. Not following this idea leads to piling food on food – a good way to a bad outcome.

            Idea #4 – Chew slowly and thoroughly before swallowing. Our sense of fullness develops more slowly than our ability to consume. Eat slowly to allow your fullness feeling to catch up with your appetite. Besides, eating too fast causes you to miss out on the great flavors that good cooks put in their best recipes. These subtle ingredients require a slow, thoughtful consideration to be truly appreciated.

            Idea #5 – Set down your fork between bites. Developing this habit ensures the inclusion of idea #4 in the consumption pattern. And this habit allows you to converse with your old and new friends at the table – which is really the purpose of holiday feasts in the first place.

            Choosing Our Food

            Idea #6 – The construction of the ideal plate of food. On the relatively new American

plate pattern suggested by the USDA and the American Heart Association, one half the plate should be food of color – one quarter of the plate in root/tuber vegetables and one quarter of the plate in other vegetables of color. Eat for color. These are the foods of good nutrition, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. They are also the foods that supply the fiber to the diet – an important contributor to bowel and heart health. One quarter of the plate should be whole grains – rice, whole grains, or whole grain breads – for contributions to nutrition, protein, and fiber content. And one quarter of the plate is reserved for the entrée – preferably a plant-based entrée that contributes to the nutrition, protein, and fiber needs. There is no fiber in meat products. As you can see, putting together a healthy plate requires a little thought and planning.

            Idea #7 – For your ideal plate, whatever kind of entrée you select, choose a small helping – something the size of your wallet, not the size of your hand.

            Idea #8 – Avoid hidden fats and sugars. These food components – when eaten in excess – contribute extra calories without extra nutrition. They are the building blocks for all those risks for heart disease and cancer and stroke – cholesterol, saturated fat, and triglycerides. These culprits are usually hiding in the cream sauces on entrees and vegetables, the heavy salad dressings, and the baked potato additives. Watch for them and minimize their presence on your plate.

            Idea #9 – Avoid calorie dense foods. A plate of spinach and a plate of pasta have vastly different calorie counts. Consider the calories you eat and the nutrition you need and choose nutrition dense foods. The calorie dense foods are usually the baked products – sweet breads, cakes, and pies and the heavy cream sauces and salad dressings mentioned earlier.

            Idea #10 – Eat for fiber. Ninety-seven percent of Americans do not eat enough fiber to clear out their colon – reducing colon cancer risk, to scrub out their excess cholesterol – reducing heart disease and stroke risk, and moderating their blood sugar – reducing Type II diabetes risk.

            These ten ideas can help alleviate the extra holiday pounds that are added each year and never quite seem to go away. Let these ideas help you enjoy a healthy and happy holiday season!

Leave a Reply