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Take Steps to Eat Healthy During This Holiday Season

By Kira Galloway

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The holiday season is a wonderful time of year filled with fun celebrations, loved ones and many delectable food options. Unfortunately, this time of year can also induce stress amongst the shopping, planning and busyness. While it may seem overwhelming, it is possible to enjoy the season without over-indulging and start the New Year happy and healthy.


Nutrition and healthy eating can seem confusing. However, registered dietitians (RD) are credentialed nutrition professionals that are able to answer nutrition-related questions and concerns you may have. Here are some tips to utilize during the holiday season and beyond:


--Create a plan for the week.Use the weekend to meal plan, grocery shop and even meal prep for the week. You will be more likely to make and consume nutritious meals if you plan and purchase healthy items in advance.


--Make room for fruits and vegetables. Half of your plate at each meal should contain fruits and vegetables. They contain fiber that help you to feel full longer and contain antioxidants that combat toxins within the body. If you are looking for a healthy snack between meals, consider grabbing an apple and peanut butter or carrots with hummus. 


--Bring the healthy dish to a holiday party. While you cannot control what others bring to a holiday party, you can control what you bring. Choose to provide a fruit tray, festive cranberry and spinach salad, or a roasted vegetable dish for the party so you can enjoy some of your favorite holiday foods alongside a serving of fruits and vegetables. 


--Drink water. Choose water as your beverage of choice over other calorically dense beverages such as soda or alcohol when possible. Keep a reusable water bottle close by and drink plenty of water throughout the day.


--Focus on loved ones rather than food. Rather than centering holiday gatherings around food, focus on those gathered around the table and engage with conversations or fun games.


--Try recipe substitutions when able. Do some research and recipe testing to make healthier versions of foods you enjoy. For instance, applesauce or pumpkin can often be substituted for oil and Greek yogurt can be a fat free alternative to sour cream.


--Avoid fad diets in the New Year. Do not punish yourself for foods you eat or feel the need to “undo” your dietary choices as the season of New Year’s resolutions approaches. Any diet that totes “quick fixes” will likely not support your long-term health and wellness. Choose to follow an overall healthy and sustainable diet pattern consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources and healthy fats. 


--Be active. Grab a friend and go for a quick stroll around the block. Physical activity can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, aid with weight loss, help with digestion, improve sleep and reduce depression.


--Enjoy your favorite holiday treats! Following a healthy diet pattern still leaves room for you to enjoy some of your favorite holiday treats. Listen to your hunger cues and stop eating when you feel full.


If you are seeking more specific nutrition information, or are looking for accountability, registered dietitians are the nutrition experts. You can make an appointment with a University of Kentucky outpatient dietitian at 859-218-4969, or if you are a UK employee, retiree, spouse or sponsored dependent you can make an appointment through the EatWell Dashboard.


Kira Galloway is a clinical dietitian at the University of Kentucky Hospital. This weekly health column is provided by the UK Public Relations & Strategic Communications Office.