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Eating healthy during the holidays


Marie Everett is a dietetic intern Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz..

Question: We're going to be headed to a lot of family get-togethers and parties this time of year. We try to eat nutriously during the year but how can I get my kids (and the adults!) from going overboard?

Answer: The main message is to take everything in moderation. That doesn't mean you have to deny yourself your favorite things...just eat smaller portions.

Take the time to plate the food you are serving your family so they don't accidentally serve themselves a plateful of mashed potatoes, instead of a slightly more reasonable portion. If you cut everything into smaller bites, you can still taste your favorites but avoid the stuffed feeling.

Second, take the time to enjoy your food. We all get excited to eat foods that remind us of the holidays. Sometimes that excitement turns into scarfing down the meal in a matter of minutes. Slow down. Enjoy the company.

Another trick is to put your fork down in between bites. And enjoy the food! If you teach your children to take the time to savor their food, chew it thoroughly and drink lots of water, they will feel full on an appropriate amount of food. When children overeat, they tend to get sluggish, which means they also won't be very active.

One way to avoid overeating is to start by looking at the snack table. Most children and adults eat more because they snack before and still eat larger portions of the big meal, so if they filled up on fruits and vegetables before, they will have a lower chance of overeating.

One great way to achieve this is to cut up fresh fruits and vegetables and set up a healthy appetizer table. Giving your family access to fresh foods that are ready to eat makes it easier and more fun for them to eat.

If you are serving a holiday meal, offer fresh fruits and vegetables as sides to make sure your children (and guests) are getting a hefty dose of fiber, which will fill them up sooner and longer. It's best to save the higher fat foods for the end, when you are less likely to eat as much.

Finally, make an eating plan with your kids. With the holiday rush, it's easy to run out of time, which means that by the time everyone is hungry, the first thing they grab is the plate of holiday cookies or candy cane. Try to prepare dinners that can be frozen ahead of time and pulled out in a pinch.

Reviewed December 2010

Page Last Modified: 03/17/2014
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