The holidays can pose challenges for people who are looking to continue healthy eating habits. At most festive gatherings, portions are excessive and the desire for flavor supersedes the need for low fat, reduced cholesterol and limited calories. However, there are methods you can employ to make sure you don’t overdo it. Allyn Mahowald, registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in New Prague, shares advice for keeping the holiday season healthy and enjoyable.

“Work on maintaining your weight during the holidays, not necessarily losing weight,” says Mahowald. “Being conscious of your food choices this time of year helps you keep your health on track.”

Mahowald offers the following tips to keep your waistband in check during the season of revelry:

Eat a nutritious snack before you attend parties. Eat either a high-fiber snack — like fruit — a small handful of nuts or protein-packed foods such as low-fat yogurt or string cheese. This will curb your appetite and make you less likely to overeat.

Contribute a healthy dish to the gathering. This is the perfect way to ensure there is something healthful for you and others to eat. Raw vegetables with low-fat dip, whole-grain crackers with low fat cheese and fresh fruit are great choices

Survey party buffets before filling your plate. Avoid loading up on foods that are fried, buttered, or have a lot of cream or cheese. Keep your plate balanced by including fruits and vegetables. Keep portion control in mind.

Be aware of how hungry you are. Ask yourself how hungry you really are before grabbing for sweets. When indulging, focus on quality, not quantity. Concentrate on your meal as you’re eating. Eat until satisfied, not stuffed.

Don’t overdo holiday baking. Limit holiday baking to just one or two favorites, and make them in small quantities. If you can’t imagine holidays without a variety of treats, host a baked goods exchange so you’ll have a small assortment of goodies.

Pick the right drink. Choose water or low-calorie drinks instead of eggnog, cider and other high-calorie festive beverages. Alcoholic drinks contribute empty calories and can cause you to make poor judgments with food. Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

Visit the people, not the food. Move socializing away from the buffet or appetizer table to prevent mindless nibbling. Keep in mind what the holidays are truly about — spending time with family and friends.

Exercise in enjoyable ways. Burn off extra holiday calories with fun winter activities. Try sledding, ice skating or bundling up for a family walk.

“Obesity and associated health conditions are a problem in the U.S., and holiday-related caloric overloads certainly don’t help,” adds Mahowald. “Try out these tips this holiday season to help you stay on track with your health goals.”

If you are interested in speaking with a Mayo Clinic Health System dietitian about a healthy eating plan, call 952-758-4431.

Allyn Mahowald is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in New Prague.

Customer Service Representative and Editorial Assistant for the Le Center Leader, Le Sueur News-Herald, St. Peter Herald and the Waseca County News.

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