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Holiday Planning Should Include Food Moderation

by Ms. Bonnie A. Coblentz, MSU Extension Service

When visiting a buffet line, survey what is available before making selections, and then fill half the plate with vegetables. (Photo by Can Stock Photo Inc./Boggy)

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Good times and good food lead to unwanted holiday weight gain for many people, but the year can end on a positive note when a few guidelines are followed.

Qula Madkin, MSU Extension Service instructor and registered dietitian at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Raymond, said her focus is not on losing weight but maintaining during the holidays.

“Finish where you started,” Madkin said. “It’s all about being realistic.”

People often eat nothing all day so they can indulge at a party, but that is the wrong strategy.

“Prepare by eating a healthy option right before you go to the party,” Madkin said. “Eating some fresh fruits and vegetables or whole grains will give you a good sense of fullness so when you get there, you can enjoy the food but not be ravenous.”

Madkin said she believes no foods are off limits at the party, but there are still wise choices to make.

“No matter how many holiday parties you go to, try to make half of your plate vegetables,” Madkin said. “Even if you go back for seconds, keep half of your plate vegetables.”

Charcuterie trays usually have fruit or veggies with cheese and meat, so be sure to choose leafy green vegetables. Select lean proteins when possible, which means choosing baked or grilled options and eating fried foods sparingly. Try to limit items in heavy cream sauces or cheese.

Madkin offered another simple tip: Survey the food options before going through the serving line.

“We often just pile things on our plate and then see something we really want and pile it on, too, because you didn’t know it was there,” Madkin said. “Learn to prioritize and truly enjoy food. Slow down and savor every bite.”

Although indulging at one party will not impact long-term weight gain, making poor food choices at a holiday season full of parties will add up to unwanted pounds and diminished health.

“Laugh and engage with friends and family members,” Madkin said. “Enjoy in moderation. Have a piece of cake or two but have a plan in place. Remember, it’s not what you eat at a holiday party that’s going to harm your health. It’s what you eat every day.”

Drinking alcohol is another element to consider when planning to enjoy a party.

“If you’re drinking alcohol, stay hydrated with water. If you have a drink, make sure you have a glass of water behind it,” she said.

Try to avoid overindulgence in alcohol; the daily limit is one drink for women and two drinks for men. Also be aware that many drinks have a high sugar content. Look for fun, low-calorie and nonalcoholic drink options. The MSU Nutrition and Wellness Facebook group offers more tips.

David Buys, Extension state health specialist, said this holiday, like the 2020 holiday season, has the added challenge of dealing with pandemic stress.

“In a lot of ways, our struggle to stay physically healthy is connected to our mental health and well-being,” Buys said.

He said relationships and connections to loved ones can seem more important during the holidays.

“It is important that we each consider what is going on around us and the impact these things have on us personally,” Buys said. “If we don’t address what has changed mentally and emotionally for us, a lifestyle change related to food or exercise may not be the answer.”

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