LEE ANNE GRACE: Develop strategy for having a healthy holiday season

By Lee Anne Grace

I don’t know about you, but for me the holiday season is the most challenging time of the year to stay on track with healthy eating.
November and December can be some of the most joyous months of the year, but all the hustle and bustle can easily become an excuse to throw disciplined living to the wind. If I have a plan in place before the holiday season arrives, I am much more likely to greet the New Year without an extra 5 to 10 pounds tagging along.
Here are a few strategies and tips I have found useful for navigating the nutritional minefield of the season:

Halloween
I purchase Halloween candy for trick-or-treaters that I personally don’t like so I’m not tempted to eat it myself.
Consider handing out pretzels, sugarless gum or even pencils or stickers. Trick-or-treaters will be getting plenty of candy at their other stops.

Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is all about the food. I do allow myself to indulge at the main holiday meal, but I set limits before I sit down to eat. These limits might include eating only one roll and one small serving of dressing.
Try to make your plate as colorful as possible. The more orange and green, the better.
If the Thanksgiving meal is potluck, I make a point to bring a healthy dish I can eat a sizable portion of, but other dinner guests would enjoy as well. Some foods I have brought in the past include green beans (cooked in chicken broth), carrots or a large salad.
I always bring the pumpkin pie. I use a recipe that is delicious and has a fraction of the calories of traditional pumpkin pie. The recipe can be found at www.hungrygirl.com.
After the meal, go for a brisk walk. Invite other family members to go with you.

Holiday parties
I eat before I attend holiday gatherings so I’m not hungry when I arrive. I have a tendency to overeat when I am hungry and have limited food choices.
Once I arrive at a party, I do a quick assessment of all the food available before I start eating. I fill most of my plate with veggies, fresh fruit and lean meats. I select two or three more indulgent foods that I crave the most, and have a small serving of them as well.
After filling my plate I move AWAY from the serving table and don’t go back. Standing near the serving line presents too much temptation to sample dips, cookies and other mouth-watering things people have brought.
Chewing gum is one of my most effective strategies for banishing the nibbles while at holiday parties.

Holiday food ideas
Combine one box cake mix with one can diet soda (no eggs, oil or water). For chocolate cake, use Diet Coke. For yellow cake, use Diet Sprite. Pour batter into festive cupcake liners, and bake as usual. Frost with fat-free Cool Whip and decorate with holiday sprinkles. Most people never know the difference.
Make a holiday wreath out of green and red bell pepper slices, fresh broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Serve with hummus. Hummus can be found near the deli section at local grocery stores. My favorite flavors are roasted garlic and three pepper, but they are all good.
Prepare a layered trifle with angel food cake, sugar-free pudding, fat-free Cool Whip and fresh seasonal fruit. Frozen fruit without added sugar can also be used. In the past I’ve used strawberries, blueberries, peaches, mango, pineapple and bing cherries. The combinations are endless. Serve the trifle in a pretty glass bowl.
Over time you may discover different strategies that work for you. The important thing is that you have a plan in place before the holidays arrive. A plan doesn’t always guarantee success, but not having a plan is inviting failure to come knocking at your door.
Have a joyous holiday season. I hope to ring in 2011 with you without the extra baggage of additional post-celebration pounds weighing us down.

Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful at losing weight and maintaining her weight loss for two years. She continues overhauling her eating, fitness, mental and spiritual well-being, and still considers herself a “work in progress.” She is passionate about helping others who struggle with the same issues she does. She is the proud mother of two teenage daughters and enjoys running in her spare time.