27 Nov

by Brooke Baker, WVU Family Nutrition Programs Extension Specialist, and
Sarah Sturgill, Putnam County Extension Agent, WVU Extension Service

holiday_meal The holiday season brings many opportunities for winter activities, gatherings, and sharing meals with loved ones. By choosing wisely this holiday season, you can still honor long-standing traditions while maintaining good health.

Did you know that a slice of pecan pie can contain more than 500 calories? Adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream means this dessert has upwards of 600 calories. Most people need only about 2,000 calories in a day.

Small changes for healthier holiday meals

Remember, healthier substitutions can taste as delicious as old-fashioned foods.

  • Make bread crumbs from whole-wheat bread. Just toast, let cool, and spin in the food processor until they reach the desired consistency.
  • Preparing a delicious fruit cobbler is an excellent way to use frozen berries or apples. Cobblers can contribute fiber, B vitamins, and minerals if whole-wheat flour and oats are included.
  • Make meatballs with better beef. Local grass-fed beef is widely available in West Virginia, and beef from grass-fed cows is lower in total fat, is higher in healthy fats, and contains more antioxidants than other beef.
  • When preparing turkey or chicken for your holiday meal, remove the skin before serving. The skin of the bird contains a layer of fat, which can add unwanted calories.

Strategies for eating fewer calories

  • Serve smaller portions to yourself and your loved ones to trim down calories. You can decrease your portion size by 20 percent without even noticing the difference.
  • Use smaller plates, bowls, glasses, and utensils. This will lead you to eat less without even thinking about it.
  • Always have a small snack before leaving for a gathering. This trick is most effective if your snack includes fiber and some protein. Have a banana with peanut butter or an apple and some unsalted almonds.
  • Opt for water or unsweetened tea instead of sugar-sweetened drinks like soda or cider. Also, watch out for alcoholic beverages, including
  • eggnog. An 8-ounce glass of eggnog contains about 224 calories and more than 10 grams of fat – most of them saturated.
  • Schedule your holiday meals during normal mealtimes if possible. Holiday celebrations that take place outside of regular mealtimes encourage people to eat more.
  • Stay physically active. People who get regular physical activity are more likely to maintain their weight, or even lose weight, over the holidays.
  • As an easy way to eat well during the holidays, use the “plate method” for meals. Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with starches (like baked potatoes or whole grains), and one-quarter with lean protein.