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Tips for Clients for a Healthful, Balanced Holiday

RDs know that an all-or-nothing approach to less-than-healthful holiday food usually backfires. Some clients may not enjoy the holiday at all because they won’t allow themselves any wiggle room for their favorite foods, or they may throw all inhibitions out the window and overindulge. But with a more balanced approach and some planning, clients can stay healthy during the holidays while still enjoying the parties and celebrations.

“We go from work, to the parties after work, to home, from October to January 1. It just doesn’t stop. And that, for a lot of us, presents lots of roadblocks,” says Annessa Chumbley, RD, a food blogger who’s worked as a spokesperson for many nutrition-related organizations and companies.

The key is to be prepared for treats and meals during the entire holiday season, the three-month period that begins with Halloween treats and winds up with New Year’s festivities.

To avoid the average holiday weight gain of up to 3 lbs, clients should consume mindfully and mentally prepare.

“I like to encourage people to stay true to their goals but to also live in the moment,” Chumbley says. “What we don’t want to do is [have] the destructive mindset of, ‘It’s the holidays, so I’m not going to abide by anything.’”

Planning ahead can keep clients feeling their best.

Clients should “do a little bit of mental preparation,” she says, and specific advice can include the following: “Know what flavors you like best, so that way you can enjoy the things that you want to enjoy in a small amount, then move on and not feel guilty.”

Chumbley provides an example: If a client loves pumpkin pie, there’s nothing wrong with having a slice, but she cautions consumers against eating it all season long. Instead, they can go for more healthful options with the same pumpkin flavor, such as a pumpkin spice smoothie or homemade pumpkin pie granola. Or they can spoon canned pumpkin into Greek yogurt with toasted pecans, she says.

To slim down other seasonal favorites, RDs can share the following tips with clients:

• For a more healthful eggnog, fill a glass mostly with low-fat or skim milk and add a small amount of eggnog to get that noggy flavor but with fewer calories.
• If cocoa is your drink of choice, use low-fat or fat-free hot chocolate mixes with low-fat or nonfat milk or hot water.
• Halve your cocktails by having a glass of water or sparkling water between each alcoholic drink. This will leave less time or room to overindulge.
• When eating turkey, remember that lighter pieces of meat have fewer calories than darker ones, and taking off the skin reduces fat and calories.
• You still can complement your meal with some dressing/stuffing. But make sure to limit it to about 1/4 cup.
• Split your dessert with someone or try bite-sized or half portions.
• Compare the labels of holiday ingredients. Choose items with less sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. And use low-fat or nonfat milk instead of whole milk or heavy cream.
• Replace salt with herbs and spices. Replace butter with a more healthful vegetable oil (Chumbley prefers avocado or algae oil), or substitute fats with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce when baking.
• Use half wheat and half white flour in baking recipes to work in more healthful whole grains.

Clients also should remember to keep moving all season. Activity can help make up for eating more than usual.

But perhaps most important, Chumbley says, is to incorporate healthful habits year-round.

“The problem isn’t Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day,” she says. “If we’re getting Thanksgiving-full 365 days a year, that’s what the issue is.”

— Source: American Heart Association