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Dr. Tim Says....

5 Tips for Healthier Holiday Dining

It's holiday time, and that means food. Sure, you should splurge on holidays, but at the same time it's just as easy to not overdo it as it is to eat everything in your path.

Here are a few ideas to help you eat well and eat healthy at the holidays:

1. Make less food

a roast turkey breast

This one's pretty easy. Figure out how many people you are having and make enough food that comfortably serves that number. At almost every holiday meal I have gone to, people complain about having to fix "too darn much food."

It can be pretty easy to cook the right amount these days, since you can purchase just turkey breasts (or even drumsticks) and don't have to worry about having that 20 pound monster turkey sitting in the fridge saying "Eat me, eat me." Or choose a roast loin of pork recipe instead of that giant ham.

2. Make plans for the leftovers

Turkey Waldorf salad, a great way to use leftover turkey

This sort of relates to Number 1, especially if you are not cooking for a crowd. Even if you are cooking for only a few, many recipes just don't serve only 2 or 4 servings. Decide what you are going to do with the extra food in advance. Make that leftover turkey into a salad, serve the dressing with meals for the next few days, or even take some of the treats to work or to your neighbor.

3. Make specific portions

Single serving pumpkin pie tart

I was at Whole Foods the other day and they were selling individual pumpkin pies. I have seen individual serving pies also in the freezer case at other groceries. Depending on how many you are going to serve for dinner at the holidays, this might work great for you.

For instance, if you are only serving 4 people, then having four individual servings of pie instead of a whole pie that serves eight just makes sense. The research is pretty clear that when there are more portions available we tend to eat them. If they are not, we don't miss them.

4. Go for a walk

an African-American family of four takes a walk in the city

Or better yet, go out and play some touch football or throw a Frisbee. You'll have the time while the turkey is roasting, and spending just 45 minutes burning some calories will go a long way toward a healthier holiday.

5. Fruit, nuts, and popcorn

a bowl of popcorn

For snacking, keep healthy options on hand for watching that football game on television. Nuts and popcorn (choose the 100 calorie mini bags) are a fantastic choice for those salty / savory snackers in your household.

For the sweet snackers, putting out a lot of cut up fruit makes for a great alternative. If you have folks who you want to treat (even yourself), portion those M&Ms into small ziplock bags. There's great research that shows we eat less when we have less put in front of us.

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet