By Bob LaMendola, Florida Department of Health in Broward County
How’s this for a holiday gift: Enjoy good times, good parties and all your favorite food and drinks – without packing on extra pounds.
The key is no secret. Use moderation at all those dinners, family gatherings, faith-based events and other festivities.
“With some planning, smarts and a bit of self-control, you can have a fantastic time without overindulging,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County.
Need a little help? Join the Department’s “Maintain, Don’t Gain! Holiday Challenge,” a seven-week program from Nov. 14 through Dec. 31 offering ways to avoid weight gain. You can join any time. Last year, 1,600 Floridians took advantage.
You get: 1. Seven weekly email newsletters. 2. Tips to host healthier dinners, manage holiday stress and survive a holiday party. 3. Weekly challenges with prizes. 4. Support through social media. 5. Healthy holiday recipes. 6. Motivation and support from other participants.
For information and to register, go to www.healthiestweightflorida.com/activities/holiday.html
In the meantime, here are 10 tips for healthy holiday eating from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other experts:
- Don’t deny yourself. It’s OK to indulge a bit. Skipping all the fun increases your desire to binge.
- Don’t go to a dinner party on an empty stomach. Eat a healthy breakfast or lunch with fruits and vegetables, plus protein such as tuna salad, nuts, eggs, yogurt or cheese.
- View holiday events as less about food and more about spending time with family and friends.
- If it won’t insult the hosts, bring a healthy dish to share. That gives you a treat if the other food is waist-busting. Try baking with whole grains and applesauce in place of white flour and oil.
- At the buffet, sample your favorites and skip the rest. Let others be first in line. Eating last may help you cut down on seconds.
- If you’re not hungry but tempted by sight and smell, nibble on small portions of favorites.
- Set a mental goal of filling half your plate with fruits and veggies, one-quarter with protein and one-quarter with whole grains.
- Walk away from the buffet table to mingle while you eat. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Hang out with talkers, not eaters.
- Hold off on getting seconds. Our bodies may take 20 minutes after eating to feel full.
- Drinking water with food helps you feel fuller, quicker. Also, limit alcohol, which has calories and can lower your willpower.
If you overdo it, a nice walk helps you feel better. The next day, resume healthy meals.