Focus on Food, Fun, Fitness During Festivities

December 1, 2016

By Debbie Herbst, RD, LD, CDE
Mercy Hospital Carthage

The holidays are a wonderful time. With all of that good cheer, however, sometimes we might start the new year not so cheerful.

With special foods, extra snacks, parties and activities, it’s easy to put on weight or run into high blood sugars or high blood pressure. Instead, make a goal to be healthy over the holidays and into January.

Start with food. Small steps can make a big difference over six weeks:

  • Take appropriate serving sizes of favorites and savor the flavor.
  • Trim down by cooking with reduced-fat options for milk, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, salad dressing and whipped topping.
  • For baked goods, use recipes from tested sources that call for sugar-substitute baking blends, Greek yogurt or whole-wheat flour.
  • For other recipes, cut in half the amount of butter, vegetable oil and salt.
  • Cut back by one-third to one-half on added fats, such as grated cheese, bacon, cream or nuts.
  • Serve an extra vegetable, fruit or salad.

How about food gifts? Instead of fudge or chocolates, consider these festive food ideas:

  • Make an edible holiday wreath by filling a long, narrow plastic bag with mandarin oranges. Tie a ribbon between each orange and bend the bag to make a circle.
  • Make herb-infused vinegar by filling a vinegar bottle halfway with a dried herb of choice. Fill the bottle with apple cider vinegar. Store for two to four weeks in a dark, cool place. Shake daily. Strain and store in the refrigerator.
  • Give a fresh-fruit basket.
  • Give a holiday mug filled with sugar-free hot chocolate mix or with assorted coffees and sugar-free syrups.
  • Make layered bean soup mix in a Mason jar.
  • Give smoked almonds or homemade, seasoned nut recipes.
  • Give a basket with marinara sauce and a favorite Italian recipe.

How about fun? Instead of focusing only on food, plan activities such as games, service projects, concerts or plays.

Time together is a gift in and of itself. Give of your time to a loved one by helping with a task or going together to an activity.

How about fitness? If you are too busy to exercise for six weeks, then you might be too busy. Try to stay with your exercise routine or do at least 15 minutes of it. Try an alternative, such as an exercise DVD at home or a new piece of equipment.

After holiday meals, take a walk with family. If traveling, walk for 15 minutes every two hours or while in the airport.

With small steps, you can start the new year healthy and happy.

Parmesan-herbed walnuts
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
½ teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
½ teaspoon garlic salt
1 egg white
2 cups walnut halves and pieces
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine Parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, herb seasoning and garlic salt; set aside. In medium bowl, beat egg white until frothy. Add walnuts and toss to coat. Add walnuts to cheese mixture and mix thoroughly. Oil or spray a baking sheet. Spread walnut mixture in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Makes 2 cups (8 ¼-cup servings).
Nutrition facts (per serving):
220 calories, 4 grams carbohydrate, 21 grams fat, 176 mg sodium, 7 grams protein.

Mercy clinical nutrition dietitians at Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune-Brooks Campus, 3125 Dr. Russell Smith Way, can be reached at 417-359-1359.

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