Tips on remaining in control while enjoying the holiday foods.

By Sherly Shooshani Daneshgar, MS, RD
Sherly ShooshaniThe average American adult gains between 1 to 10 pounds during the “holiday season,” the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. As loving, caring parents this is one holiday tradition we do not want to pass on to our children’s generation.

The holidays are about spending cherished time with family and close friends. They are about family rituals and traditions. For most, this time of year is also about eating indulgent high fat and high calorie foods that we don’t usually eat the rest of the year. Everywhere we look there are tempting baked goods, candies, chocolates and savory foods.

Below are five simple suggestions to help you and your family enjoy all the wonderful aspects of the holiday season, while remaining in control.

Keep Your Home a Safe Haven – We anticipate plenty of school celebrations, office parties and family gatherings during this festive time of year. One thing they all have in common is tempting treats. It is important not to also buy or keep these foods in your own home. Always have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, washed, cut and ready to eat at home. Keep fruit bowls on your counters and tables and platters of cut up vegetables and fruits in your refrigerator, where they are easy to see and grab. Other great snacks to munch on are crudités with low-fat ranch dressing or salsa and air popped popcorn. If you happen to host a party, try not to serve in excess and giveaway as much of the high fat, high calorie foods as possible. Give it away or throw it away!

Be Selective – The holidays offer a great opportunity to empower yourselves and your children to really listen to your bodies and make careful choices about what you are going to eat. For instance, if you are going to grandma’s house and you know that you love her homemade chocolate bread pudding and her cheesecake, decide which your favorite is and enjoy a small serving. A little mashed potatoes, crunchy rice or dessert is okay if the majority of your meal is clean.

Try to eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, salads, low-fat proteins, Greek yogurts, whole grains and clear soups the day that you go to celebrations. Starving yourself in anticipation of a big festivity is a recipe for disaster. Remember to eat plenty of healthy foods throughout the day. Once you arrive at your party choose a couple of foods that you really love and enjoy them in moderation, while keeping the rest of your choices healthy. This is a wonderful tool to employ as a parent and to teach your children.

Drink Lots of Water – It is important to be well hydrated all year round. The best way to hydrate our bodies is with water. Most people do not drink enough water in a day, which can cause us to feel weak, dizzy and have headaches. Water also keeps us feeling full. Many times when people feel hungry, they are just thirsty and that is how their body is telling them to drink water. It is best to have 6-8 glasses of water a day. Make water your only liquid choice during the holidays. Try to avoid all sodas, juices and sports drinks. As an adult, limit alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks per week.

Keep Moving – The holiday season is a perfect time to step up your exercise routine. Do an extra 15 minutes of cardio at the gym a couple of times a week. Meet friends for workout classes or hikes instead of meals. Create new family traditions at holiday parties that keep everyone active, such as going on group walks, doing scavenger hunts, playing different sports or having freeze dance competitions. Since the weather is colder and it is darker earlier outside, play music and have regular family dance parties in the evenings. Keeping active is a great way to balance out the excess calories we consume this time of year.

Don’t Wait for New Year’s to Start Your Healthy Eating Plan – Start eating healthy and exercising today. Don’t overindulge and not exercise in anticipation of 2012 to get into shape. This is the mentality that gets us into trouble. Practice your healthy life-style now.

Lastly, enjoy the holidays by being around the people you love most who make you feel good. They are the best treats for our soul!

Sherly Shooshani Daneshgar is a registered dietitian with an M.A. in Nutritional Science and a certified weight management counselor for children and adolescents.