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5 Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating

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Sacred Heart Health System offers tips for staying healthy while enjoying holiday festivities.

From family gatherings to office parties, the holidays provide a string of opportunities to celebrate. Unfortunately, they also provide the perfect excuse to overindulge.

According to a study published in Nutritional Review, average adults gain less than one pound during the six-week holiday period between Thanksgiving and New Year. However, individuals who were overweight or obese gained up to five pounds. For the 195 people followed for the study, the weight they gained during the holiday season accounted for 51 percent of their annual weight gain.

By planning ahead and practicing mindful eating, it’s possible to enjoy the holidays without packing on extra pounds, says John Griggs, MSN, RN-BC, a diabetes nurse educator at Sacred Heart Health System.

1. Walk it off
Recent research has found that walking after a meal reduces blood sugar levels more effectively than a single 30-minute walk at any time of the day. Walking after dinner reduced blood sugar levels by 22 percent.

2. Slow it down
It takes your brain approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating to send out signals of fullness. To give your brain time to catch up with your gut, try drinking a glass of water before you start eating.

3. Eat a pre-party snack
Eat a snack with protein and fiber, such as hummus and carrots or yogurt and nuts, before you go to the party. Treat the appetizers and sides as your meal and fill up your plate with healthy choices, such as salad, vegetable dishes or lean proteins.

4. Be mindful
In our fast-paced world, we need to learn to slow down and focus during mealtimes. Mindful eating isn’t a diet, but a way to enjoy meals without distraction. Practices that promote mindful eating include taking small bites and chewing well, sitting down and slowing down, turning off TVs or mobile devices, counting your chews and setting your utensil down in between bites.

5. Practice the plate method
Managing portion control is one of the best ways to control your eating habits. The food pyramid has given way to the plate method. Use a 9-inch food plate and section ½ of the plate for non-starchy vegetables like spinach, cauliflower or broccoli; ¼ for 3 ounces of lean protein (roughly the size of a deck of cards) and ¼ for carbohydrates, such as a slice of whole wheat bread or brown rice.

Sacred Heart's Diabetes Education Program offers individual and group instruction to help people in the community gain knowledge to control their disease, avoid complications and teach or enhance skills for a healthier life. For more information, visit http://www.sacred-heart.org/CommunityEducation/page/?ID=177.