A time for family and thoughtful eating

by Rhonda Monfee

With a few tips (skills), we can enjoy the holiday season and not feel the pressure to succumb to high calorie foods that we will feel guilty over later. The average weight gain from Halloween through New Year’s Day is seven pounds, but 2014 can be different!

As a registered dietitian, I certainly know how to eat healthy. But, my willpower is put to the test during this season of the year.

I would like to share some dietitian tricks of the trade to help 501 readers avoid the pitfalls of overeating and still enjoy the holiday season with family and friends. When planning for the holidays, it is important to keep in mind:

All foods can fit in your nutrition plan. It is not necessary to avoid any certain food groups.  Research teaches us that if we avoid certain foods we love/crave, we will eventually give in and eat the desired food and at least 350 calories on top of the very food we tried to avoid.

By choosing healthy foods 80 percent of the time, we can have a 20 percent splurge and still maintain our wellness goals. It is also important to say “splurge” instead of cheating as the latter word conjures up negative thoughts when we need to accentuate the positive.

The goal for the season is to maintain weight, it is not the time to try and lose weight. We must keep our goals realistic.

Now, for dietitian tricks of the trade:

During parties and gatherings at home or work, avoid skipping meals to save calories for the party foods. This usually ends in over indulgence.

Try eating a healthy snack (apple with string cheese) before going to the party. This helps us keep portions in check at the party.

Stand or sit away from the buffet table and snacks (out of sight, out of mind).

Three-bite approach: Try to stick to three bites of your favorite indulgences (such as tiramisu or pecan or key lime pie).

Take healthy snacks or dishes if it is a potluck.

Make beautiful fruit and vegetable trays. Everyone appreciates them.

Daily small bouts of physical activity. Yes, every move matters!

It takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you are full, so taking your time will prevent overeating.

Focus on interacting and visiting with friends and family.

Holidays are really about enjoying time with family and friends. With this in mind, try not to rush through meals. Instead, try to take smaller bites and savor the great company and the flavor and textures of food. In the dietitian world, we call this method “mindful eating” as opposed to “mindless eating,” which is eating food without enjoying and hardly even remembering what was eaten. 

The holidays are the time to focus on our family and loved ones — a time to be grateful, to love, to celebrate and to relish our family traditions and time spent together. Mindful eating can help us stay focused.

Cranberry Cinnamon
Baked Apples

Vegetable oil
2 large baking apples
3 tablespoons orange juice, unsweetened apple juice or water
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla, butter and nut flavoring or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch, square non-stick baking pan with vegetable oil spray. Put halved apples in pan. (If needed to keep apples from rocking, cut a very thin slice off bottom of each half.) In a small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. Spoon onto each apple half. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 10 minutes. As the apples bake, their juice combines with brown sugar and orange juice to create a light caramel sauce. Remove foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until apples are easily pierced with fork. Serves four (half apple each). Calories: 149.

Potatoes Supreme

1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup (2 oz.) reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan with water to cover; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain. Add milk and beat at high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add yogurt, salt and green onions to potato mixture, stirring well. Spoon mixture into a 1-quart baking dish and top with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Serving size: 3/4 cup. Calories: 97. Makes 6 servings.