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Health Information Healthy Eating Strategies
for a Happy Holiday

With the holidays here, and visions of more than sugar plums dancing in our heads, many of us wonder whether we will have to let out our belts a notch or two after all the goodies are consumed. Dieters are particularly concerned.

There is no need to worry about gaining weight, if you just keep a few healthy strategies in mind, says Jennifer Ventrelle, clinical nutritionist and registered dietitian at Rush University Medical Center. She offers these tips:

  • Be realistic: "Trying to diet during the holidays is setting yourself up for failure – and personal torture," Ventrelle says. "Set an achievable goal: to maintain your weight through the holiday season."
  • Go ahead and party, but…: Feasting is a big part of holiday fun, but never go to a party hungry. "Eat a healthy snack, such as yogurt or fruit, an apple and peanut butter, or a bowl of high-fiber cereal before you leave home. That way, you will be too full to gorge on all the desserts," Ventrelle says.
  • Eat small: Eat small meals with fewer calories during the day to offset the calorie load of dinner. At dinner, eat slowly and use a small plate. "Take a small first helping. That way, if your host expects you to take seconds, the total will be one normal-size dinner," Ventrelle says. Another suggestion: Go ahead and eat your favorite foods. Just keep the portions small. One taste can often help satisfy a craving.
  • Socialize: "Socialize with your friends and family – if you're talking, you're not eating," Ventrelle says. "Just don't stand next to the buffet table where you might be tempted to nibble. You might also keep a beverage in hand to avoid reaching for more food."
  • Cook: "If you are going to a friend's or a family member's home for dinner, offer to bring a dish—and bring a healthy dish, like a fresh fruit or veggie platter," Ventrelle says.
  • Be generous: If you are the host, give away any leftovers.
  • Move: "A decrease in physical activity is a prime contributor to holiday weight gain," Ventrelle says. "Without exercise, you burn fewer calories, and you're also likely to eat more." Instead, take a few laps at the mall before you start shopping. Round up a family member to go for a walk with you. Don't grab the nearest parking space at the mall. And climb the stairs instead of standing in the elevator.

Healthy strategies like these, Ventrelle says, can help you avoid putting on unwanted pounds during the holiday season. And they are good practice for upcoming New Year resolutions.

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For more information about nutritional services at Rush visit our Food and Nutritional Services home page.
  • Looking for a dietitian? Call (312) 942-DIET (3438)
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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