- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - Eating healthy during the holidays can be a challenge.

“Typically, every place you go - everything revolves around food and drink. And a lot of times, it’s not the healthiest of options,” said Beth Carlson, a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Big temptations can include candy, cookies, pie and cheesecake.

“Alcohol is frequently served at many events and it’s just empty calories,” she told the Fremont Tribune (https://bit.ly/16w9ef2 ).

With all the goodies, some people can gain 10 or 15 pounds during the holidays.

Yet with a little planning ahead and - by keeping some tips in mind - people can enjoy the holiday treats without piling on extra pounds.

Carlson, a food service director for Sodexo at Fremont Health Medical Center, offers these tips:

- Plan ahead. If watching calories, eat less throughout the day to save some extra calories for later.

- Make healthier versions of your favorite foods. Carlson notes, for instance, that a creamy spinach dressing can replace the typical bread stuffing. The spinach dressing has more vitamins and iron and fewer calories. “There are healthier and less healthy options,” she said. “Any food can fit into your plan in moderation. It’s all about moderation.”

- Exercise. “Do a little extra exercising the day before or the day of (the holiday gathering) to burn off the calories you’re going to eat,” Carlson suggests.

- Bring healthier options to gatherings or parties. Provide lower-in-fat cookies and candy or plain nuts. Bring fresh vegetables with healthy dips. A dip with mock crab can be made with low-fat cream cheese and fat-free mayonnaise. Carlson warns, however, that people must read nutrition labels for ingredients. “Fat, sugar and salt are three things that give flavor to foods,” she said. Remove one of those ingredients and you may find more of another. “A low-fat or fat-free version may be higher in sugar or carbohydrates,” she said.

- Use a smaller plate. “We typically eat with our eyes so if you have a smaller plate, you’re apt to take less,” Carlson said. Eat smaller portions of the higher-fat, higher-calorie goodies.

- Eat more slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to tell you that your stomach is full, so slow down. Chew more. Eat smaller bites. “Really listen to your body - when it’s full - and don’t go beyond that point,” Carlson said.

- Drink a non-caloric beverage. Have one of these beverages while eating to help fill your stomach.

- Don’t graze. Take a small plate of food versus eating a little here and little there - which can all add up.

- Decide what you really want to eat. Bypass the foods you can eat all year long - like mashed potatoes and gravy or corn. Eat the foods - like your mom’s stuffing or pumpkin pie - that you only get once or twice a year.

- Consider camaraderie. Get support from family and friends. Let them know you’re trying to eat healthier.

- Weigh yourself. If you’re up a couple pounds, think what you can do to get those pounds off. It’s OK to weigh every day - as long as you realize there will be 1- or 2-pound fluctuations, because of fluid retention or other health issues. Don’t let the scale be your only marker. You may not be losing on the scale if you’re exercising, but you may be losing inches - converting fat into muscle.

- Don’t get discouraged. Keep trying.

Trade in the word “diet.”

“I like to think of it as eating healthy - something you can do the rest of your life, that you can maintain and not feel like you’re depriving yourself,” she said. “It’s really all about balance.”

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Information from: Fremont Tribune, https://www.fremontneb.com

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