Restraint for the eating season

Published 7:14 pm Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday eating season has begun in earnest. Thanksgiving is the kickoff, Christmas is the main course and New Year’s Eve provides the after dinner drinks. Of course there are events sprinkled in between said holidays that are filled with tasty appetizers and delicious sweet treats.

This season is basically a nutritional minefield. It is hard to come out unscathed — or without some extra padding to show for it.

In previous years, I inhaled every sweet and appetizer that came my way during the holiday season. Usually, this led to a food coma for most of November and December. Now, I am attempting to make it through the holiday season feeling good while still enjoying myself.

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This past week, Jennifer Shea Rawn, a registered dietitian for Farm Fresh, discussed with the Suffolk News-Herald the keys to a health-conscious Thanksgiving meal that can apply to the rest of the holiday season as well.

There are plenty of options to have a satisfying but healthy holidays, the registered dietitian said.

The typical Thanksgiving meal is about 4,000 to 5,000 calories, Rawn said. That is more calories than pretty much anyone should eat in an entire day let alone one meal. Making some healthier choices will help you feel better in the long term and may not require a New Year’s resolution to be to lose weight.

Thinking of healthier ways to cook your favorite dishes is a great way to go. You are still satisfied by having that casserole or dip, but fewer calories to go with it.

Rawn gave the example of green bean casserole. It can be made with low-fat soup and sautéed onions rather than fried onions, she said. Sweet potatoes or mashed cauliflower are better choices than mashed potatoes.

Plain non-fat Greek yogurt is also a good substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream in many recipes.

Shopping the perimeter of the grocery store helps you choose healthy items from the produce aisle, like vegetables to roast for an excellent side item or raw vegetables to eat with hummus or a low-fat dip.

Cooking at home instead of eating out can help you make better decisions, since you know exactly what is going in each dish.

One thing I have learned is to never go to the grocery store hungry or come to the Thanksgiving — or Christmas table — with an empty stomach. When I am hungry, I make bad food choices and eat too much.

This Thanksgiving I made sure to have breakfast and a light lunch before my family’s big meal. That way I wasn’t too hungry and wouldn’t go too crazy at the dining room table. I also attempt, which is not always easy, to leave the splurging to the actual holiday. I eat at least a little bit of everything that I want and even get some dessert too. But, I try not to go back for leftovers of high-calorie items like dessert once the holiday is over.

This might sound crazy to some people, but get moving during the holidays. Getting in some physical activity the day of a big meal — or any day — will help get your metabolism going into overdrive. My husband and I went for a run on Thanksgiving morning, but it doesn’t have to be that intense. Even a walk around the neighborhood before a big meal — and after — can help.

The holidays are often used as an excuse to overindulge, but from previous experience I can tell you that living the rest of the year with extra weight is not worth it.