Good Holiday Choices

In the days leading up to holiday weekends, it’s easy to lose focus and allow little decisions to undermine the work you’ve done over the year to improve your health.

Instead of going with the flow of the chocolate fountain, pay attention to your choices leading up to the upcoming weekends.

Learn to “bank” calories. By practicing moderation and planning ahead, you can eat more than usual and still balance the scale. Even though “moderation” sounds oh so boring, it actually pushes you beyond all or nothing and inflexible thinking so decisions are based on facts rather than judgment.

Calorie banking works because it allows you to spread the excess calories you plan to consume over several days and balance this excess with increased activity and a slight decrease in food intake.

For example, if your basic calorie goal for weight loss or maintenance is 1,800 calories, your holiday dinner may add another 1,000 to your day if you consume a 6- to 8-ounce portion of meat; a couple cups of mashed potatoes or stuffing; a couple cups of side salads; a roll; a glass of wine, sparkling cider or a cocktail; and pie for dessert in addition to your modest breakfast and lunch.

To balance the extra calories you’ll consume that day, start five days earlier by adding additional activity that will burn another 100 calories in your daily routine, and lower your target calorie intake leading up to the weekend by 100 calories.

By breaking the 1,000 extra calories up over five days and dividing that between increased activity and modest calorie reduction, you’ll balance the week, enjoy the party and balance the scale.

Plan the menu with plenty of healthy options. Be creative, and craft a menu that allows you more than a few healthy options for your party or dinner. There are many lower-calorie healthy options that are quick and easy to pull together.

This past week, I attended a holiday party that included large shrimp with cocktail sauce, lean deli ham roll-ups with honey-mustard sauce for dipping and festive skewers made with three grape tomatoes, basil, olives and one cheese cube per skewer.

Cucumbers can be sliced on the diagonal and used in place of crackers topped with light cream cheese and cranberry or sweet pepper relish.

A variety of sweet peppers can be sliced and served on a hummus platter featuring a couple varieties of commercial hummus.

In addition, Greek yogurt can be used in many dip recipes in place of sour cream to lower the calories and fat content.

Be thoughtful about presentation. Research has shown we tend to serve ourselves larger portions when the food is offered from larger serving bowls or plates using larger utensils.

To increase consumption of healthier options, create large platters of a variety of healthy appetizers and dips and serve the higher calorie options from smaller serving platters or bowls.

Jeanine Stice is a registered dietitian. Contact her

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