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    Ways to eat healthy during the holidays

holiday fruits and nuts, cookies and treats
A typical holiday meal can pack a whopping number of calories ─ many from fat. These extra holiday calories cause the average American to gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. But, by making simple changes, holiday meals can be made healthier.

“Most holiday meals are not bad for you if they are prepared properly,” says Alice Bachop, a nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Health System. “The trouble arises when fat and sugar are added.”

For example, including large amounts of sugar, butter and cream in recipes negates many of the benefits of healthy foods like squash, potatoes and meat. These additives also make enjoying these foods’ natural flavors more difficult.

Bachop recommends these tips for healthy holiday eating:

  • Cut away all visible fat from meat before cooking.
  • Roast poultry on a rack, so fat can drip away, and remove the skin before eating.
  • Remove fat from homemade soup; cool soups, and skim off the fat that rises to the surface; and use lots of vegetables.
  • Make sauce with fat-free broth or low-fat milk, thickened with flour.
  • Prepare fruit salads without dressing. Just enjoy the fruit.
  • Roast root vegetables after tossing with olive oil and seasonings instead of preparing a creamy vegetable casserole.

You also can make holiday meals healthier by planning ahead, says Bachop. She provides these tips:

  • Before you have a holiday meal, take the edge off your appetite by eating a couple crackers.
  • Establish a plan for eating before you sit down, and enjoy smaller servings.
  • Concentrate on social conversation; sit away from the food.
  • Don’t tempt yourself; avoid having mixed nuts, candies and cookies available for grazing.
  • Opt for low-calorie beverages.
  • Eliminate appetizers. Try a chilled sparkling juice in a stemmed glass instead.
  • Don’t give up the family favorites, but enjoy them in moderation.
  • Stay active over the holidays. Take a walk, and enjoy the winter wonderland.

“The most important thing is to maintain a positive attitude and feel good about your self- control,” says Bachop. “So eat, drink and be merry this holiday season; just do so in a healthy way.”