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How to eat healthy during the holidays

By Lisa Fisher | Wiesbaden Army Wellness Center | Dec. 4, 2018

WIESBADEN, Germany —
One of the biggest challenges we face during the holidays is eating healthy. We are more likely to indulge at this time of year at holiday parties, family meals and during holiday shopping. 

Many of the typical holiday foods and beverages provide us with minimal essential nutrients and are high in added sugar, butter and salt. 

Over time, unhealthy eating may lead to weight gain, decreased energy, impaired physical performance and poor sleep quality. Listed below are some easy tips for making healthier choices during this time of year.

1. Slow down: Take the time to enjoy the flavors of your foods and beverages. Eating slower also gives your body more time to release the hormones that make you feel full, which may help you to eat less.

2. Make healthy swaps: Try new recipes of your traditional holiday meals and desserts. Add flavor to with spices instead of salt or sugar, incorporate whole grains by using whole wheat flour in baking and choose leaner cuts of meat.

3. Eat before you go: Fill up on fruits and vegetables before going to a holiday party or Christmas market. If you are less hungry, you are less likely to eat as much of the high calorie, low nutrition foods that are typically available at these events.

4. Monitor portion sizes: Enjoy the tasty seasonal food and beverages, but be mindful of over consumption. Choose smaller portions of meats, cheeses, breads and desserts and fill half your plate with vegetables or fruit.

5. Limit alcohol: A serving of alcohol is equivalent to 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, 5 ounces of wine and 12 ounces, or .33 liter of beer. Each serving contains an average of 100-200 calories, often called as empty calories because they don't provide your body essential nutrients. Mixed drinks, egg nog and seasonal coffee drinks can be much higher. Calories in beverages add up quickly, especially when consuming more than one serving. Be mindful of your intake of high-calorie beverages.

6. Don't give up: One overindulgent day will not cause excessive weight gain or chronic health problems. The accumulation of a couple hundred extra calories over several days during the holiday season is where the long term effects are noticed. Keep track of your daily eating and exercise habits. If you have one day of overeating or too much alcohol, commit to making a healthier choice the next day.

7. Stay on track with the AWC: Your local Army Wellness Center provides nutrition resources including classes on various nutrition topics and metabolic testing to determine how many calories your body needs each day.

Additional information on AWC services can be found at https://phc.amedd.army.mil/.