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Planning paves way to healthful holidays

Choices can allow one to shed specter of holiday weight gain without deprivation

Choices can allow one to shed specter of holiday weight gain without deprivation

November 21, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

kristinw@herald-mail.com

This week starts the season of splurging.

Thanksgiving might seem innocent enough as a celebration of family and well-being, but behind those turkey drumsticks lie countless holiday parties, cookie baking and eggnog toasts.

That's right. It's time for holiday weight gain.

Fortunately, that's a myth, says Tammy Thornton, registered dietitian and nutrition/wellness services coordinator with the Washington County Health Department.

"The holidays come along and we just immediately think we can't follow our regular routine, so people say 'I'm just going to throw in the towel,'" Thornton says.

"People will just stuff themselves because there's so much available," she adds. "If we are really mindful and enjoy what we have, we maybe wouldn't indulge so much."

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The other trick to avoiding overindulgence and holiday weight gain is making the holidays work for you.

This week starts the season of splurging.

Thanksgiving might seem innocent enough as a celebration of family and well-being, but behind those turkey drumsticks lie countless holiday parties, cookie baking and eggnog toasts.

That's right. It's time for holiday weight gain.

Fortunately, that's a myth, says Tammy Thornton, registered dietitian and nutrition/wellness services coordinator with the Washington County Health Department.

"The holidays come along and we just immediately think we can't follow our regular routine, so people say 'I'm just going to throw in the towel,'" Thornton says.

"People will just stuff themselves because there's so much available," she adds. "If we are really mindful and enjoy what we have, we maybe wouldn't indulge so much."

The other trick to avoiding overindulgence and holiday weight gain is making the holidays work for you.

Here are some ideas to keep the extra pounds at bay, while still enjoying every moment of the holiday season:

· Not all holiday foods are bad for you. Many are quite good. One way to enjoy holiday meals is to load up on the good stuff, while leaving the calorie- and fat-laden foods for others. Of course, if pecan pie is a once-a-year treat, go ahead and have a slice or sliver, but enjoy just one serving.

Take the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Turkey is a very lean protein, especially if you pick white meat without skin. Besides, "the protein in that turkey is going to help keep you full," Thornton explains.

Sweet potatoes have lots of fiber, are a good source of vitamin A and are a naturally sweet food. If you can avoid extra butter and brown sugar, sweet potatoes are a great holiday choice.

Pumpkin and cranberries in a natural state are low in calories and full of nutrients. Try making from-scratch cranberry relish instead of the full-of-sugar canned varieties and try a pumpkin pie recipe with less sugar.

"Lots of times, most people have plenty of vegetables for the holidays," Thornton says. She suggests following the American Cancer Society's suggestions when selecting foods during a holiday meal.

"Think about your plate. Divide it into quarters and half of your plate should be vegetables," Thornton says. "The other quarter should be meat and the other quarter starch. That's a really great way to think about portion control."

· Keep up the exercise. Find ways to exercise through the holiday season. The exercise will help balance extra caloric intake.

Total Fitness Specialists, a training and nutrition service, started an eight-week fitness program about one month before Thanksgiving. The program runs until the week before Christmas.

The classes, which meet three days a week, were billed as a way to get in shape or at least maintain fitness through the holidays.

"The people that exercise consistently, they can handle splurging," says Tina McNulty, director and owner of Total Fitness Specialists. "You kind of stay ahead of the game" if you are exercising throughout the holiday season.

McNulty adds that exercise provides an energy boost and helps relieve stress.

Find exercise opportunities while making the season bright. With a little creativity, the holidays can be an active time of year.

For example, go to a Christmas tree farm where a hike is required to find the right tree.

Instead of driving through neighborhoods to check out holiday lights, take a walk with the family.

Ditch the electric beaters and mashed potatoes by hand.

Skip the early-bird shopping specials. Instead, go shopping at peak hours, which forces you to park far away from stores.

Take your time with holiday decorating and light displays. Stringing lights around trees or on homes can be a good workout.

If the holidays do take their toll on healthy habits, know that help is just a New Year's resolution away.

Total Fitness Specialists plans to kick off another eight-week boot camp session Jan. 2.

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