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‘Tis the Season

We will soon be in the “’Tis the Season” time of year, with its holiday shopping, gatherings with family and friends and a myriad of eating opportunities. In addition to having extra treats at home, many of us will be enjoying luncheons and cookie platters at work. It is a tempting time of year to throw caution to the wind and, in fact, the average American can gain as much as 8 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Those extra pounds can take months to shed, therefore, let’s see if we can minimize the damage with a few good tips for healthy holiday eating and ideas for remaining physically active.

Family eating thanksgiving dinner

Many of our favorite holiday recipes can be tweaked to reduce the fat and sodium (salt) content, reduce the calories and remain delicious. Here are a few tips for making a change:

  • Substitute a low sodium broth or bouillon for a regular one, which can have as much as 763 mg of sodium/cup. Keep in mind that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 2300 mg of sodium/salt daily for adults.
  • In many desserts such as quick breads (pumpkin loaf, cranberry bread, zucchini bread) and even brownies, try substituting 1/3 to 1/2 of the oil with either applesauce or pureed prunes found in the baby foods isle of your store.
  • Use a reduced fat cheese in recipes that call for regular cheeses.
  • Low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt can be used in place of sour cream or mayonnaise. Reduced fat sour cream is also an option. Depending on the recipe, you may be able to substitute Neufchatel cheese for cream cheese. It has 72 calories/6gms of fat per ounce vs. 99 calories/ 9.75gms of fat in one ounce of regular cream cheese.
  • Try roasted vegetables instead of au gratin.
  • Sliced/slivered almonds are a great way to top your favorite casseroles instead of using fried onions.

Now we will move on to ideas for maintaining our physical activity. The holiday can be hectic, and we often feel exhausted. However, we often experience mental fatigue vs physical fatigue, so it is important to stay physically active to relieve tension.

Here are some tips for staying active through the holiday and winter season:

  • Try mall walking, it is a great option for folks who cannot safely walk outdoors in the cooler weather. Your community may have a group that routinely meets at the local mall for walks.
  • If you are a cold weather outdoor enthusiast, try ice skating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing (look for groomed trails near you).
  • Indoor activities can include following an free online exercise video.
  • Evaluate your current physical activity level and explore your options for maintaining/increasing to 4-5 days per week, 30 min. per day or 15 minutes twice daily. Regular physical activity has many benefits, especially at times when we are experiencing mental fatigue.
Person skiing

With a little bit of planning, you can have a wonderful season and feel good about your efforts to maintain a healthy eating and physically active lifestyle.

By Diane Ford, Cornell Cooperative Extension Herkimer County