Health goals shouldn’t ruin holiday happiness

First Posted: 12/10/2013

Dressing and gravy and pies, oh my! It’s that time of year again, when holiday treats turn into a year-long splurge of overeating. Holidays should be a time of fun and happiness, but there is a way to enjoy them without sending your health into a downward spiral of disaster.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a New Year’s resolution that doesn’t involve losing the 10 pounds you gained over the holidays? Turning down some of mom’s homemade apple crisp isn’t exactly easy to do and we don’t recommend it. Here are some ways to avoid the holiday pounds:

— Pass on the double portions and second — or even third — helpings. Going back for more will leave you feeling full, bloated and tired the rest of the day. And remember — just because Uncle Ted has a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t be afraid to let your family know you are watching your portions.

— Don’t skip the vegetables, even though it’s cold outside. Plenty of foods are in season right here in North Carolina. Support your local farms this year and choose items such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, onions, turnip greens, mustard greens and cabbage.

These make excellent holiday side dishes and will provide essential nutrients to your diet. Plus, choosing in-season fruits and vegetables contributes to the economic growth of North Carolina and of our farmers. For more information about seasonal produce, visit

— Be realistic about your weight-loss goals. Losing weight may not be feasible over the holidays. Instead, work to maintain your weight and continue with your weight-loss regimen when things settle down. Make sure you eat breakfast the morning of your scheduled holiday dinner, and drink water regularly throughout the day. This will prevent you from overeating at dinner.

If dinner is later in the evening, have lunch or a healthy snack. Prepare holiday foods after eating a meal to reduce the amount of snacking you are tempted to do while you cook. Substitute healthier ingredients when possible. For example, use applesauce instead of oil, or 1 percent milk instead of whole milk. Healthy recipes and more can be found online at

— Skip the soda. Not only does this add extra unnecessary calories, but it also fills you up and leaves you with less room for the nutritionally dense, whole foods you’re about to enjoy. If you’re craving something with flavor, try using Crystal-Light or a sugar-free substitute in your tea.

— Use the weather to your advantage. Go outside and partake in some exercise. Take a walk after dinner with your friends and family. This is a great way to keep moving while catching up with each other.

Enjoy the holiday food and but don’t lose sight of your health goals. Your New Year’s resolution shouldn’t start and end in January. Keep up the work all year long. Happy eating.

Briana MacDougall, of Fulton, N.Y., is completing a dietetic internship through East Carolina University in the Food and Nutrition Services department with Southeastern Health.

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