Healthy Comfort Foods

The holidays are so close that you can almost smell the pies, cookies and turkey coming out out theoven. Every year, it seems, the holiday season begins earlier. And, for many of us, that earlier arrival is a trigger to pig out from mid-November until the first few days of January. Just don’t forget: any long-term change to when and what you eat can impact your stamina as the holiday marathon rolls along.

The first thing to remember is that holidays and rituals are an important part of life. Don’t approach them with the mindset that you need to deprive yourself  with a little planning and some sound strategies, you can still enjoy Grandma’s apple pie, just as you did when you were a child.

Keep in mind that the basics of good nutrition apply all year. Don’t skip your usual healthy breakfast and sensible lunch to cut calories in anticipation of an elaborate party. You can sample the buffet, but do it with a plan. Choose lower-fat options, vegetables, and small portions of dips and rich dishes. Go for the lean meats, go light on gravies and sauces, and steer mostly clear of dips. You can have a taste or two, but don’t make the indulgences the main part of your meal. Better still: look at the buffet line as a chance to reconnect with family and friends. See it as an opportunity to sample indulgences, and load up on good memories. At the office, the assault of treats may seem unending  platters of cookies, trays of nuts, fancy cupcakes and other treats. Physically place yourself away from those indulgences  out of sight, out of mind really works! And, when you would have to encounter these treats, be prepared ahead of time, by arriving at the office after having enjoyed a good breakfast, and plenty of water!If you are preparing the feast, remember to cut back on salt and fatty meats, and substitute flavorful herbs and lean alternatives..

Turkey is a wonderful lean source of protein, that is, until you deep fry it, fill it up with buttery stuffing, and coat it with gravy. Think about offering the turkey drippings as a simple topping, and make your mashed potatoes leaner with broth and skim milk. Load up favorite recipes with vegetables when possible, and include with the appetizers a colorful and delicious platter of crunchy veggies with a low-fat dip, or hummus. A pretty plate can be just as festive as any holiday decoration!

Holiday parties almost always include alcohol. Alcohol is a source of empty calories, and it can make us want to eat more! It lowers our inhibitions, and that can create havoc at the buffet. There are two important things to remember: you can still enjoy a drink or two, but concentrate on the flavor of your favorite fire water, and also, eat a small amount of protein over the time that you are drinking. Also, some seasonal favorites are loaded with fat and sugars try for a light version of eggnog, and seek out light or sugar-free alternatives for punches and other mixed drinks.

Don’t forget that heavy meals and more-that-your-usual amount of alcohol will make you feel sluggish and not your best for the fun- and the challenges – that the holidays bring. When you approach opportunities to overeat at the holidays with a plan, and continue to keep in mind the good eating habits that carry your through the year, you can enjoy the season and not leave it with extra pounds.