(Family Features) - Rich dinners, office cocktail parties and sweets galore. Yes, the holidays are about family, friends and generosity, but we all know what the season truly centers around - food.
Each year, it is inevitable that people will consume food in greater quantities, promising to do better next year when clothes seem to fit a bit more snugly than usual. In fact, research suggests that Americans will most likely gain one pound during the holiday season, which accumulates through the years and could lead to obesity problems in the future.* However, the bottom line is that people do not want to give up their favorite holiday dishes in the name of health. Rather, making simple lifestyle and cooking changes will promote good health without sacrificing traditional food and festivities.
Chef Kathleen Daelemans, best-selling author and host of the Food Network's Cooking Thin, is an expert at making simple changes in the kitchen to create healthy but satisfying recipes during the holidays and year-round. Daelemans has offered several tips to aid people in a healthier holiday season without forgoing their favorite dishes.
"The holidays are a time for fun, sharing and giving, and shouldn't be spent feeling guilty every time you put a piece of food in your mouth," said Daelemans. "Some easy lifestyle changes during this busy time will allow you to enjoy healthier holiday favorites without sacrificing taste. Choosing fats and oils wisely, consuming leaner and healthier ingredients and not relying on fast food in between your holiday meals can lead to a healthier, more balanced season."
*Study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), March 2000.
Healthy Holiday Tips
Select the right fats and oils. The new food pyramid has ended the common misconception that all fats and oils are bad for you. Choosing the right fats and oils helps to provide essential nutrients and can lead to a balanced diet. Rather than cooking with solid fats, try incorporating liquid-based oils like diglyceride-rich (DAG) oil, canola and olive oil, which are better options. DAG oil, in particular, is clinically shown to store less as fat in the body compared to traditional oils, while not changing the taste or texture of recipes. After becoming the No. 1 selling oil in Japan, DAG oil is now available in the U.S. market under the name Enova brand oil (www.enovaoil.com).
Be choosy when selecting ingredients. Build holiday menus around naturally healthful ingredients. When using meat or protein, make the cuts lean; try sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes; and when incorporating dairy, make it low fat. Also, fill people's plates with lots of fruit, vegetables and whole grains to encourage a well-balanced, but delicious, holiday meal.
The three-to-one rule. When attending a holiday party, take three healthy bites for every single high-calorie bite. Instead of piling a plate with high-calorie foods, make a commitment to balance out what you eat by helping yourself to good-for-you foods first.
Go cardio. Build in more cardio workouts to counterbalance holiday indulgences. Cardio exercise releases "feel good" hormones and burns calories to offset big meals and high stress. Try exercising at least three times a week - if you add 10 minutes to a workout every day, you'll get in an extra 30 minutes at the end of the week.
No excuses for fast food. As you will be eating richer food than normal, keep in-between meals lean, clean and portion controlled. This is not the time of year to resort to fast food because you're too busy to cook. Plan for the extra demands on time by stocking the fridge and freezer with pre-made and pre-portioned soups, stews and make-ahead meals. Every time you cook, make extra and freeze. Do this three times a week and you'll have 12 meals in the freezer.