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Dieters Should Enjoy Healthy Holiday Treats
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The holiday season often presents a series of delicious meals and special treats, but the goodies aren't so great for those watching what they eat.
Dieters face temptation after temptation in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and struggling to avoid calories can cause extra holiday stress.
Dr. Melissa Mixon, extension nutrition specialist at Mississippi State University, said the festive atmosphere of the holiday season does not have to be detrimental to a healthy diet.
"Eating healthy during the holidays is possible. Many of the traditional Christmas foods are not only delicious, but nutritious as well. Just follow the simple rules of moderation and variety," Mixon said.
Dieters should remember that although fat is the most concentrated source of calories, non-fat calorie sources can also be devastating to a diet.
"The total number of calories is the crucial factor in terms of weight control," Mixon said.
The nutrition specialist suggested several tips to prevent the festive holiday atmosphere, which is often centered around food, from sinking a diet.
"Moderation is one of the most important things to keep in mind," Mixon said.
"Plan meals and snacks ahead of time, and set a limit to what you are going to allow yourself. When attending a party where hors d'oeuvres will be served, have a snack or a light meal before going to keep from eating too many high calorie foods at the party," she said.
Mixon recommended against skipping any meals, but she did suggest compensating for extra calories ahead of time by eating smaller portions and increasing physical activity.
"When you go to a party, try to be nutritionally savvy. Choose low calorie items such as fruits or vegetables. Put the healthier items on your plate first. Select low-fat dips, and go easy on nuts and fried appetizers," Mixon said.
Plain foods are usually healthier. Baked pork, beef and poultry are better options than fried meats. Ask for any sauces to be served on the side so you can add small amounts.
"At home many holiday foods can be prepared with fewer calories. For example, eliminate butter or margarine from vegetables, pastas and rice and substitute with other seasonings," Mixon said.
Alter gravies and sauces that are generally made from a fat base to contain less calories. Chill meat broths ahead of time, and remove the congealed fat. Evaporated skim milk is a good substitute to use in cream sauces.
"These simple alterations in recipes can greatly reduce calories without significantly changing food quality," Mixon said.
She also suggested trimming any visible fat when preparing meats and using breads without butter. Cut back on salad dressings or use a reduced calorie version. Also incorporate low- fat dairy products in diets whenever possible.
Choose small dessert portions or split a desert with another person.
"Desserts made with fresh fruits are among the healthiest choices, and they are just as delicious as higher fat items," Mixon said. Compensate for occasional high calorie desserts by reducing calories at other times.
Mixon said conscious efforts to restrict calories during the holidays and throughout the year are worthwhile to those committed to maintaining a healthy diet and slim figure. However, don't become too stressed about calorie watching that you don't enjoy the holiday.
"Don't let avoiding food become an obsession that spoils the season," Mixon said. "Just use some control."