Headline: Eat Healthy During the Holidays Without Missing Out on Family Traditions

Byline: Will Hehemann, writer/editor hehemannw@uapb.edu

UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

PINE BLUFF — Plans to eat healthy and stay active often go out the window around the holidays, Teresa Henson, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Extension specialist – nutrition outreach coordinator, said. Individuals can follow a few steps to ensure holiday cheer does not throw them off their health-related goals.

“Christmas holidays are right around the corner, and during this time, people are ready to enjoy time with family and friends and make fun memories,” she said. “More often than not, these occasions revolve around food. It can be easy to become relaxed and lose focus of healthy eating and exercise.”

Henson said Arkansans can take advantage of the following tips from the American Heart Association to make smart, healthy choices during the holidays:

Find healthy alternatives to your favorite dishes. Eating healthy does not mean giving up the tasty holiday dishes you crave. Those dishes might need just a little modification. Instead of using butter, try using a healthier vegetable oil. Bake the turkey instead of frying it, and hold off on bacon when making green bean casserole.

Enjoy in moderation. Eat favorite family treats and meals in smaller portions and make smart substitutions. Plan ahead for foods that are not healthy – it is all about portion control.

Add colorful seasonal fruits and vegetables. When planning meals, try to make your plate colorful. Adding colorful fruits and vegetables to your plate will add flavor and nutrients to holiday dishes. This will help you stay full longer and avoid overeating.

Consider Substitutions. Learn which holiday foods and drinks are hiding excess calories, sodium, saturated fat and additional sugars. Try to substitute with something healthier or simply avoid them.

For example, drink water with lemon slices instead of a soda or sugary drink. Eat mixed vegetables instead of the loaded five-cheese macaroni and cheese. Be sure to trim the fat when cooking meats.

Stay active. After enjoying your meal, take time to go for a walk to avoid any food temptations and distractions. Make it a family affair and enjoy spending time being active with the entire family.

“Staying healthy and being active during the holidays is not as complicated as some assume,” Henson said. “Paying attention to what you eat and how often you exercise does not mean sacrificing important family meal traditions.”

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.