December Wellness: Indulge in Healthy Holiday Traditions


Fight the Battle, Win the War: Healthy Eating During the Holidays

Thanksgiving is over but the eating has only just begun. From Black Friday shopping to New Year’s Day, gluttony is everywhere: tempting, tantalizing and sometimes even tormenting us, especially when we succumb. It’s just another battle in the war on healthy eating. Armor up! Fight the fight!

Naturally, we aren’t going to win every battle, but with a little effort, we can still come out ahead in the long run. Approaching the holidays without a battle plan might work for some (are they really human?) but most of us need to prepare, to bolster up our reinforcements and have a backup for those moments of weakness.

Back to Healthy Eating Basics

Part of the strategy? A refresher on the basics of health eating. Although it is just one part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s an important one. New studies show that diet plays a far more important role in losing weight than exercise. According to, for most people, it’s possible to lower their calorie intake to a greater degree than it is to burn more calories through increased exercise. That’s why cutting calories through dieting is generally more effective for weight loss. Exercise, however, is important for maintaining weight loss and can help prevent excess weight gain in the first place.

There are plenty of resources available for healthy eating tips and ideas. Choosemyplate.gove is a great place to find information on many issues. Each meal is a building block in your healthy eating style and it is recommended that we make fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein foods part of our daily meals and snacks – and to limit added sugars, saturated fat and sodium.

Try the suggestions below:

1.  Make half your plate veggies and fruits
Vegetables and fruits are full of nutrients that support good health. Choose fruits and red, orange and dark-green vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.

2.  Include whole grains
Aim to make at least half your grains whole grains. Look for the words “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” on the food label. Whole grains provide more nutrients like fiber than refined grains do.

3.  Don’t forget the dairy
Complete your meal with a cup of fat-free or low-fat milk. You will get the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk but fewer calories. Don’t drink milk? Try a soy beverage (soymilk) as your drink or include low-fat yogurt in your meal or snack.

4.  Add lean protein
Choose protein foods such as Turkey; roast beef; fresh ham; pork, chicken, beans, eggs, nuts, or tofu. Some types of fish, such as cod or flounder are also lean choices. Trim fat when cooking meals. Go easy on the sauces and gravies – they can be high in saturated fat and sodium.

5. Avoid extra fat
Using heavy gravies or sauces will add fat and calories to otherwise healthy choices. Try steamed broccoli with a sprinkling of low-fat parmesan cheese or a squeeze of lemon.

6. Get creative in the kitchen
Whether you are making a sandwich, a stir-fry, or a casserole, find ways to make them healthier. Try using less meat and cheese, which can be higher in saturated fat and sodium and adding in more veggies that add new flavors and textures to your meals. Bake healthier with unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter. Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half. Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice or nutmeg instead of salt.

7. Take control of your food
Eat at home more often so you know exactly what you are eating. If you eat out, check and compare the nutrition information. Choose options that are lower in calories, saturated fat and sodium.

8. Try new foods
Keep it interesting by picking out new foods you’ve never tried before, like mango, lentils, quinoa, kale, or sardines. You may find a new favorite! Trade fun and tasty recipes with friends or find them online.

9. Satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way
Indulge in a naturally sweet dessert dish—fruit! Serve a fresh fruit salad or a fruit parfait made with yogurt. For a hot dessert, bake apples and top with cinnamon.

10.  Everything you eat and drink matters
The right mix of foods in your meals and snacks can help you be healthier now and in the future.

Indulge… In Tradition and Celebrations the Healthy Way

The holidays are often filled with time-honored traditions that include some of our favorite meals and foods. As you celebrate, think of little changes you can make this holiday season to create healthier meals and active days. Eating healthy and being physically active CAN be a fun part of parties and events. Great gatherings are easy to do when tasty, healthy foods from all the food groups are offered in a fun, active environment. Above all, focus on enjoying friends and family.

1. Make healthy habits part of your celebrations Food and beverages are a part of an event, but they do not have to be the center of the occasion. Focus on activities to get people moving and enjoy being together.

2. Make foods look festive ? Add a few eye-catching fruits to a favorite dish or a new recipe. Add a sprinkle of almonds or green onions to make the dish pop. Decorate foods with nuts or seeds or use new shapes for vegetables.

?3. Offer thirst quenchers that please Make fun ice cubes from 100% juice or add slices of fruit to make water more exciting. Create a “float” by adding a scoop of low-fat sorbet to seltzer water.

4. Savor the flavor Take time to pay attention to the taste of each bite of food. Make small changes in your old recipes or try dishes from another culture to liven things up.

5. Include foods from the food groups for your party Offer whole-grain crackers or prepare them with hummus as an appetizer, serve a spicy bean dip and a veggie tray, make fruit kabobs, or layer yogurt with fruit to create a sweet parfait. Use whole grains and veggies to make a savory, healthy salad. Make it even better by adding unsalted nuts and black beans. Use low-fat milk instead of heavy cream in your casseroles.

6. Be the life of the party Being physically active makes everyone feel good. Laugh, mingle, dance and playing active games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others. Give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits such as workout DVDs, running shoes and reusable water bottles.

7. Try out some healthier recipes Find ways to cut back on added sugars, salt and saturated fat as you prepare your favorite recipes. Create delicious new meals with your leftovers. Add turkey to soups or salads, use extra veggies in omelets, sandwiches or stews.

8. Keep it simple Have others participate by contributing a healthy prepared dish.

9. Shop smart to eat smart Save money by offering foods that fit your budget. Buy in-season produce – it costs less and tastes better. Plan in advance and buy foods on sale.

10. Be a cheerleader for healthy habits Set an example – especially for the children nearby. Keep in mind that children follow what the adults around them do — even at parties.


Probably one of the most difficult issues in the quest to conquer healthy eating? Travel and eating out. It’s possible to stay on track and remain true to your goals! Try these ideas from

1. Consider your drink: Choose water, fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea and other drinks without added sugars to complement your meal.

2. Savor a salad: Start your meal with a salad packed with vegetables to help you feel satisfied sooner. Ask for dressing on the side and use a small amount of it.

3. Share a main dish: Divide the main entree between family and friends. Ask for small plates for everyone at the table.

4. Select from the sides: Order a side dish or an appetizer-sized portion instead of a regular entree. They’re usually served on smaller plates and in smaller amounts.

5. Pack your snack: Pack fruit, sliced vegetables, low-fat string cheese, or unsalted nuts to eat during road trips or long commutes. No need to stop for other food – these snacks are ready to eat.

6. Fill your plate with vegetables and fruit: Stir-fries, kabobs, or vegetarian menu items usually have more vegetables. Select fruits as a side dish or dessert.

7. Compare the calories, fat, and sodium: Many menus now include nutrition information. Look for items that are lower in calories, saturated fat and sodium. Check with your server if you don’t see them on the menu. For more information, check the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website.

8. Pass on the buffet: Have an item from the menu and avoid the “all-you-can-eat” buffet. Steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes have fewer calories than foods that are fried in oil or cooked in butter.

9. Get your whole grains: Request 100% whole-wheat bread, rolls, and pasta when choosing sandwiches, burgers, or main dishes.

10.  Quit the “clean your plate” club: Decide to save some for another meal. Take leftovers home in a container and chill in the refrigerator right away.

We all want to enjoy the holiday celebrations – and the food and we’re all in this together. The truth is, holidays are festive celebrations no matter what we eat. When we tie festivity into healthy eating we have a winning strategy. If we remind ourselves of these tips, we can get a grip on reality in the face of temptation and have good memories of the celebrations AND our ability to stay in control. Happy Healthy Holidays!


Food and Nutrition Information Center:

Celebrating Holidays with Food Allergies:

ChooseMyPlate.Gov USDA, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion Web site:

Happy and Healthy Celebrations USDA, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion Web site:

Clemson Cooperative Extension Web site:

5 Holiday Meal Planning American Diabetes Association Web site:

Holiday Resources Food and Health Communications Website:

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