Healthy Holiday Eating

10:58 AM, Dec 12, 2012   |    comments
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We have three holiday parties left between now and New Year's Eve, not including any impromptu neighborhood gatherings or work potlucks. The sheer variety combined with people's best homemade dishes can undermine your ability to not gain weight this time of year. Here are a few tips to help you avoid gaining weight at your holiday celebrations.

• Variety and display impacts how much you eat. Here's a couple of excerpts from Brian Wansink's research discussed in his book "Mindless Eating": 
Jelly Bean Study: Half of all movie goers were offered six different flavored jelly beans, divided into six separate containers the other half were offered the same six colors but mixed together in a large bowl. Those who ate from the disorganized assortment ate twice as much. 
M&M Study: A person offered 10 colors of M&Ms will eat 43 more M&Ms on average than their friend who is only offered seven colors. (Don't they know they all taste the same?).

Case in point. If you received a box of Russell Stover's chocolates, how more do you eat when it's a variety than if they were all caramel?

• We eat more calories in a group because we are less conscious of what we are putting in our mouth. Compound that with a little holiday cheer (as in a wine glass) and your sense of discretion becomes quite dull. Research shows a 20% increase in calories when alcohol is added to the mix. Alternate your wine or beer glass with a glass of water.

• People who regularly exercise work out the least in the month of December. Yet we know exercise helps us burn off the extra calories and is a great holiday stress reliever.


• Have a healthy, light snack before heading out to the party to take the edge off your hunger. Saving your calories for the party usually backfires as you arrive ravenously hungry. Try a piece of fruit, low-fat yogurt, string cheese or cup of popcorn.
• Survey the entire landscape before you pick from the sweet and appetizer table. Limit your selections to the top few. Note to self: only serve two colors of M&M's - red and green served in separate bowls.
• Eat slowly and really enjoy the special foods that (thankfully) aren't tempting you on a nightly basis.
• Sip a glass of water between cocktails to stay hydrated and reduce the impact that alcohol has on your appetite, caloric intake and willpower.
• Move away from the food table and enjoy the music and time with friends. Lingering at the table can be a visual trigger that convinces you to eat even though you are no longer hungry.
• Press the reset button the next day. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise and lighten up your meals.

This easy Smoked Gouda and Apple Appetizer is a healthy, low-calorie alternative to the cheese, salami and cracker tray. It includes three food groups in every bite.

• Cubed Smoked Gouda
• Cubed Honeycrisp Apples soaked in Apple Juice
• Crushed Walnuts
• Honey
• Toothpicks

1. Mix apples in honey and crushed walnuts
2. Skewer cube apples and smoked gouda. 

Courtesy: Sheryl Lozicki is a Registered Dietitian at Saint Mary's Health Care and the Director of Nutrition and Wellness.

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