About Me

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My friends call me the "grammar goddess." Really. ;-) I own a freelance writing, editing and tutoring business. Previously, I served three years as food editor for The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, which kindled my interest in food writing. My other areas of expertise in writing include features, community news, architecture/construction and engraving/personalization. I have a frightening number of cookbooks and watch too many DIY, HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Antiques Roadshow (BBC and PBS versions) shows. And I tweak nearly every recipe I make.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Healthier eating out for holiday celebrations

It's a holiday, so you want to join in having some celebratory food and your favorite holiday drink. With the wide variety of foods around, sometimes it's hard to make sure you are still overall meeting the goals of eating healthy. I have this problem as much as the next person, but I've learned a few things over the years.

Try to keep it to one small cookie!
There's no need to be crazy about it: for example, don't munch only on plain celery sticks while looking longingly at the pie your cousin is eating. For one thing, it'll make him nervous the way you're eyeing his food. In addition, that level of self-sacrifice might lead to overeating later.

Take it easy
"All things in moderation." While I've gnashed my teeth on some occasions I have heard this, it still is true. I'm not trying to be a killjoy; all these suggestions are meant to enhance your enjoyment of the holidays while minimizing the pain involved getting on the scale after them.

The best thing to do, with both snacks and dinner, is to take a plate up to where the food is, select what you will eat and move on out.

You and I both know what makes a healthy dinner, really. I don't think we need to go there. Do you?

Personally, I find the nibbles before and after and the dessert course much harder to deal with than what's for dinner.

Standing in the kitchen next to the snacks or eating standing up by the food buffet both tend to lead to mindless nibbling. Take some things you really like that scream "holiday food" to you, but don't get carried away. And go sit down rather than staying by the food. Meanwhile, keeping your mouth busy with talking with friends and family between bites also helps to keep down the food intake. If you follow these steps, you'll still have room for a reasonable dinner and a light dessert.

But a buffet of snacks is hard for almost everybody, including me. People tend to nibble here and there; and, before you know it, you've consumed hundreds of calories!

Better choices can be tasty, too
There usually are some healthier choices from the snack buffet (pick two or three if dinner follows). If the snack buffet is your dinner, have between five and seven choices.

Just try these:
  • a handful (no more) of your favorite nuts 
  • plain tea, black coffee, or water for your drinks, rather than punch, cider or eggnog, is a very good idea
  • two small pieces of dark chocolate or fruit covered with dark chocolate
  • a roll-up consisting of a slice of lunch meat and a slice of cheese
  • two to three pieces of sushi (if quite large, limit to two pieces)
  • grape or cherry tomatoes (my personal favorite; I will, left to my own devices, eat them all, even without dip)
  • pickle chips and/or olives (keep it to 10 or less if you need to watch sodium)
  • fruit salad or other fresh fruit (grapes, strawberries, pineapple tidbits, or apple slices and fruit dip made with low-fat yogurt are all good choices)
  • veggies and either low-fat spinach-artichoke dip or ranch dressing 
  • approximately three cubes of your favorite cheese (the equivalent of about one string cheese stick, depending on size). 
  • Three cubes or three small pieces/slices of ham, sausage, salami, prosciutto or smoked salmon (I am like a starving mouse when it comes to cubes of cheese and love prosciutto; believe me: you do not want the "hungover" feeling from overdoing either of these items)
Other ideas to avoid overeating

If you want a cup of eggnog, try diluting it with skim milk and keep to a small cup (1/2 c. is one serving for any type of eggnog). Try either low-fat eggnog or one of the non-dairy versions available in the natural foods sections of many stores, including Kroger and Meijer. Any of these choices are lower in calories than traditional eggnog.

Why not make your favorite healthy treat to share? Then something you like and can eat without derailing your balanced diet will be available. You might even make a healthy main dish, if dinner is something very heavy like 10-layer lasagna and bread sticks. (This does require coordination with your host/hostess, but usually that's not a problem. That's especially true if you follow a healthy diet for medical reasons and explain that.)

Fill up on unadulterated veggies (steamed beans versus green bean casserole, for example, or salad or the raw veggie tray with a little bit of light ranch) and take small amounts of high-calorie items. (At the risk of sounding obvious, any dish smothered in/mixed with cheese, sour cream, butter, fried onions or mushroom soup, it is pretty high in calories.)

Protein, such as turkey ham or lunch meat rolled up with a slice of cheese is a better bet than potato-cheese casserole.

A serving of sweet potatoes is usually a better option than whipped, mashed potatoes with cream and butter. If your sweet potatoes come with marshmallows baked on it, why not make it your dessert?

One reason I adore having bite-sized desserts at a party is that I can try two or three things without totally destroying my game plan. The point is to limit yourself to the equivalent of one fairly small dessert portion. So try fresh fruit instead of pie, cake or cookies when possible. If pie is your must-have holiday food, keep it to one thin slice or two very thin slices (1/4-1/2 inch thick). Ditto for cookies: have one normal-sized cookie or two small cookies.

Above all, don't forget to enjoy yourself when you're out for the holidays.