Savoring nostalgic treats in moderation and keeping your health goals in mind are possible this holiday season, says one nutrition and health expert.
One of the reasons why Gabriela Murza loves the holidays is because it’s a chance for her to indulge on the cookies her mom only makes this time of year.
“People in my office will ask, ‘When are you bringing in your mom’s cookies?’ ” she said.
Murza, a family and consumer sciences agent for UF/IFAS Extension in Osceola County, said that November and December are jam-packed with nostalgia for the sweet treats people grew up eating or only eat once a year.
Planning ahead, practicing moderation and staying active are some ways people can eat their favorite sweet and savory treats without feeling like a stuffed turkey, she said.
One of the strategies to accomplish this, she said, is to plate up your food with a variety of food groups.
“Don’t just have stuffing and pie,” she said.
About half of your plate should be filled with high-fiber vegetables and fruits, Murza said, while about a quarter should contain a source of protein and carbs can account for the last quarter.
An additional small amount of dairy, such as cheese, can be added to the side.
People can adopt the same approach at often overwhelming buffet-style restaurants, she said.
Even if you are interested in trying all available options, opt for small amounts of each item, and start by filling up half the plate with veggies, followed by protein, then carbs.
If you or your family prepare food at home, she said, try to mind how much salt, sugar and saturated fats are added. Sometimes, substituting an item high in saturated fat, such as butter, with olive or canola oil is an easy healthy swap.
That’s not to say all butter or sugar should always be swapped out: “Butter is fine. Salt is fine. Sugar is fine,” Murza said. “Everything in moderation.”
Gainesville resident Janice Garry, whose favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, said she makes an effort to use locally grown vegetables in her meals such as the carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and lettuce that will fill her family’s plates at dinner this year. Her daughter, who lives in North Carolina, is also bringing fresh apples to make an apple crisp.
“I enjoy the simplicity of being around family and spending time together,” she said.
Garry said she prefers to eat locally grown food when she can to reduce environmental impact, but that she considers the health benefits of eating fresh, nutrient-filled foods as well.
Murza said that as far as beverages go, water should usually be the first choice.
Travelers to places at higher elevations or hotter destinations, active individuals and the ill are among those who should consume more water, Murza said.
A general guideline people can use to figure out their daily water requirement is eight 8-ounce glasses, or 64 ounces total, she said, though the number can vary.
People can also try the trick of dividing their weight in two to determine how much water they might need. For example, a 160-pound man of average height, build and activity level might need to consume about 80 ounces of water per day.
“We’ve replaced water with so many different types of beverages including sugary drinks, and energy and sports drinks,” she said. “Water becomes a bit boring.”
She suggests fancying up your water by adding fruit, cucumber or mint to your glass to infuse the flavors.
If you can’t resist a sugary beverage, try diluting it so that you can still get the hydration from the water.
The holidays are more than just a time to eat, Murza said, though great meals and treats eaten with loved ones are, of course, part of the fun.
She said people already stay active during the holiday months when they shop, deep clean their homes to welcome guests and dance through the night at parties. But parties where food is at the center of interest for the evening can be accompanied by physical activities like games, sports and spending time outside.
“Don’t make it always about the food,” Murza said. “Don’t get so caught up in sticking to an eating plan or eating all the treats. Definitely enjoy the food and balance your time with physical activities.”