‘Tis the season to indulge

Published 11:59 pm Friday, November 27, 2009

Balancing a healthy diet and responsible eating during the holiday season is just plain hard – especially faced with all the delectable desserts, scrumptious side dishes and heavenly main courses.

Patty Ferman, a registered dietician at Mizell Memorial Hospital, and Sabrina Mills-Marcotte, a certified nurse practitioner and obesity specialist at Covington Medical Associates, each say it’s much easier than you think to not become what you eat this holiday season.

“What people don’t realize is that you need to eat to lose weight,” Marcotte said. “The key is what you eat and the portion size.”

Marcotte recommends eating five times a day or every four hours with each major meal of the day separated by a light snack.

“Think about this, your stomach is the size of both of your hands cupped together,” she said. “If you go longer than four hours between eating it takes more to fill you up and that stretches your stomach. So each time it takes more and more to make you fill full.

“If you watch your portion sizes and put yourself on a schedule, you avoid that roller coaster,” she said. “It speeds up your metabolism, and it acts as a sort of reboot for your system.”

However, that is only part of the equation to “reinventing your eating lifestyle,” she said.

“You have to exercise,” she said. “There is no magic pill that will make you lose weight and keep it off if you don’t adopt healthy eating and exercise habits.”

But sometimes the best-laid plans fall by the wayside, especially during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

“The first step to maintaining healthy holiday eating habits is to develop an eating plan before you go to the parties or sit down at the dinner table,” Ferman said. “If you are attending a dinner party, eat small meals during the day to make it easier to control your hunger and leave room for enjoying the special holiday foods.”

Ferman said if the holiday menu is cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, enjoy a small meal right before going to the party to prevent overeating.

“If the cocktail party precedes dinner, eat a piece of fruit before the party and sample only one plate of hors d’oeuvres,” she said. “And keep in mind, alcohol can lower your resistance and cause you to eat more.”

And believe it or not, Ferman said holiday treats can fit into a healthy eating plan.

“Sweet treats, including cookies and cakes, are on many people’s minds and tables during the holidays,” she said. “With increased focus on trans fats, the process of hydrogenation that makes liquid oils into solid fats, you may be wondering how you can enjoy these holiday goodies.”

She recommends substituting traditional baking ingredients with healthier options to help lower trans fat intake and recommends these changes:

Go easy on foods with “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated oils.”

Switch to oils or trans fat-free margarines.

Add healthy ingredients to cake or cookie batters, like raisins or toasted nuts instead of chocolate chips.

Choose products that are trans fat-free.