Healthy tips for holiday eating

Between busy schedules and large family meals, it can be easy to lose track of a healthy diet during the holidays. With that in mind, we turned to Registered Dietitians Mary Vojta of the OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute and Jenna Bishop of OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center for some tips on making healthy choices at large holiday gatherings without sacrificing flavor.

I always encourage people to bring something they have made that has been modified — low fat, lower calorie or low sodium — or take a fruit or veggie tray as sometimes people don’t bring healthy items. My mother-in-law would put a whole stick of butter (800 calories!) in her mashed potatoes, so sometimes you don’t even see the added calories,”  Vojta said.

Bishop added, “Don’t starve yourself before the main meal. Eat as normal as possible that day so you can indulge without feeling the need to over-indulge. Also, remember to fill half your plate with fruits and/or veggies; that will automatically guide portion control for the remaining items on the table.”

Quick tips for the big holiday meal

Other tips from the dietitians include:

  • Avoid standing around the food/dessert table. People often nibble without realizing.
  • Practice “damage control.” Ask yourself, “Do I NEED to taste all five of the desserts offered, or can I get by with trying a small piece of  one or two?”
  • Limit or avoid gravy due to fat/sodium.
  • Limit alcohol to reduce calories (and make sure it’s OK to drink if you are taking prescription medications).
  • Don’t go back for seconds.
  • Start or end the meal with a brisk walk.
  • Allow your goal during the holiday season to be weight maintenance, not weight loss.

“Thanksgiving is ultimately about gratitude. Focus on who and what you are thankful for, and not just the food that surrounds you,” Bishop said.

For healthy recipes for your holiday season, be sure to visit www.osfhealthcare.org/recipes/.