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Holiday Eating Simplified

The holiday season often takes its toll on healthy eating habits. The days may be filled with parties, family gatherings and traditional holiday feasts, each affording opportunities to consume high-calorie foods. You may have less strength to fight temptation due to the stresses of shopping, coping with relatives or meeting multiple demands on your time. By developing healthy holiday eating habits, it is possible to emerge post-holiday nutritionally intact.

Maintain Your Routine

Stick to your normal routine as much as possible. If you usually eat breakfast at home, continue to do so rather than skipping the meal or ordering from a drive-through window. A bowl of whole-grain cereal with skim milk and an orange makes a quick, nutritious start to the day, while a hot bowl of steel-cut oats topped with blueberries and pecans is a healthy, delicious treat when you have a few more minutes available. If the holiday season brings an unhealthy change to five or six of your meals, don't compound it by eating 10 or 20 unhealthy ones.

Limit Exposure to Holiday Foods

If you feel you need to have holiday treats available when company visits, purchase or make them just before your guests arrive. Physically place yourself away from food trays or containers of cookies at the office. Keep a container of water and a healthy snack with you for nourishment between meals.

Eat Before Parties

Have a snack or light meal before a holiday party, suggests the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A nutritious choice such as cottage cheese or a handful of walnuts may help you to eat responsibly come party time.

Choose Your Favorites

When facing a holiday feast or a party banquet, scan all of the choices before loading your plate. Eat small portions of your favorite holiday foods, so you don't feel deprived. It is often easier to avoid non-traditional foods, such as key-lime pie, than time-honored traditional dishes, such as pumpkin pie.

Set a Good Example

Making a conscious effort to set a good example to those around you can help you keep your own eating habits on track. Skip the welcome basked of bread at a restaurant or have just one piece. Offer healthy foods, such as a fresh fruit salad, to your guests. Suggest an activity such as a walk around the block, a game of frisbee or a football toss to keep yourself and others active after a meal.

Be Realistic

Demanding perfection of yourself or others can lead to holiday stress and overeating. Relax and enjoy time with family and friends rather than feeling consumed with finding the perfect gift, baking the perfect pie or wearing the perfect outfit. Keep reasonable expectations for the events you attend or you could find yourself drowning your disappointment in a plate of dressing, cup of eggnog or slice of pumpkin pie. Don't try to begin a diet during the holidays, recommends the American Dietetic Association, as this sets you up for failure. Focus on the meaning of the holidays and the interactions with those around you, rather than placing unrealistic expectations on yourself.

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