Before holiday decorations are unpacked, invest a little thought in your holiday meals to have a tasty, yet healthy, season, says a Purdue University foods and nutrition expert.
“The winter holidays cover a good six weeks – beginning at the end of November and not ending until after New Year’s,” Olivia Bennett Wood says. “Avoiding extra calories requires you to plan ahead, and certainly the holiday season is a time when it is particularly difficult not to overindulge. Plan now for success.”
Wood says planning is crucial to prevent expanding one’s waistline during the holidays. Adding 10 to 15 minutes to an exercise routine, or extra thought to holiday meal planning, can prevent weight gain. Before attending a party or dinner, take time to eat small, nutritious snacks to prevent eating on an empty stomach at the party, she says.
“With these simple game plans, people can be more conscious of their nutritional habits during the festive season,” Wood says. “Let hors d’oeuvres be your meal, and let the early party be supper. Take a selected item and move away from the table of food. Also, be aware of unconscious eating while near food. Don’t be the person who reaches unconsciously into the peanut dish all night.”
When planning a holiday meal, the host should consider implementing a strategy to make sure nutritional tendencies don’t detract from the festive occasion.
“Plan for elegance rather than quantity,” Wood says. “Rather than a buffet, plan for one elegant menu in a relaxed and beautiful atmosphere.”
Wood says it’s not necessary to have several entrees, multiple starches or desserts for guests. Go for one main dish, two side dishes, or skip a side dish if appetizers are served. Keep the desserts simple, or consider something light, such as fresh pineapple with pomegranate seeds served in a crystal bowl.
Planning the perfect meal also includes focusing on the atmosphere, which can add richness to the meal without adding calories. Wood suggests setting the table with beautiful china, crystal or a matched set of quality seasonal paper items. Serve a special wine, and decorate with candles and fresh flowers.
“A simple, elegant menu is easier on the cook, cleanup and calorie intake,” Wood says. “After dinner, plan a walk-through of a decorated neighborhood to burn calories and enjoy the season’s decorations.”
Other tips for the hosts:
– Plan to include low-calorie items such as fresh veggies and fruit with low-calorie dip or no dip.
– Offer low-calorie beverage choices.
– Don’t push food at your party. Understand guests will know when they have hit their calorie limit.
– Don’t equate food amount eaten with the success of your recipes and party.
– When preparing food, read labels carefully.
“Be sure to watch for the newer items labeled low fat,” Wood says. “Compare them with the original item. The fat may be lowered or even gone, but the calories may be similar to the original.”
Wood says for those who are passionate about holiday food, a different approach can be taken.
“Another plan might be that you do plan to gain several pounds and then lose them in January,” Wood says. “Perhaps the holiday season is your favorite food time and you don’t want to miss it. However, I suggest you don’t plan to gain more than you can recover in a month. It’s just not worth it.”