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Eat healthy, not hearty, for the holidays

graphic

(CNN) -- Believe it or not, nutrition experts say it is possible to have a healthy holiday without shortchanging yourself. You can even sample a few treats.

"There's a huge variety of foods out there now -- healthy stuff -- and you are burning more calories this time of year if you're on the go," said Kaiser Permanente dietician Ann Whitaker. "If you stay busy, or moderately active, you can maintain or even lose weight."

Former dieter Beth Morris knows the secret now.

"It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle," she said. "You have to keep that in front of your mind."

  RECIPE
 

Healthy holiday eating tips

  • Don't starve yourself. Always eat breakfast and another small, low-fat meal to prevent high-calorie bingeing later.


  • Take just one trip to the holiday buffet table, and make healthy choices such as lean turkey, ham, shrimp and salads.


  • Limit alcohol and rich beverages such as eggnog.


  • Stay active. If it's difficult to get to the gym, park a little further from the store and take an extra lap or two around the mall.


  • Choose holiday treats with some nutritional value, including those with chocolate, nuts and fruits.


  • Click here to return to the Holiday special

    Today, Morris is more than 30 pounds lighter than she was just a few years back. She has learned that a little creativity and planning can go a long way -- even at holiday time.

    "During the holidays -- or any time of year -- all foods can fit into a healthy diet," advised Kathy Goldberg, a registered dietician and culinary specialist at the University of Michigan Health System. "We want to make sure that we eat a balanced diet, though, which means not excessively eating sweets and treats."

    It does mean pursuing a diet based on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, Goldberg said.

    Still, it doesn't mean giving up holiday treats entirely.

    "It's very difficult to modify a recipe for a butter-based cookie and have it really be satisfying and delicious," the Michigan dietician continued. "But you can still make those, just have a very small portion of them."

    Kaiser's Whitaker and Michigan's Goldberg add a few other tips:

  • Don't starve yourself. Always eat breakfast and another small, low-fat meal to prevent high-calorie bingeing later.
  • Take just one trip to the holiday buffet table, and make healthy choices such as lean turkey, ham, shrimp and salads.
  • Limit alcohol and rich beverages such as eggnog.
  • Stay active. If it's difficult to get to the gym, park a little further from the store and take an extra lap or two around the mall.
  • Choose holiday treats with some nutritional value, including those with chocolate, nuts and fruits.
  • "There's nutritional benefit in chocolate, fruit and nuts," explained Goldberg. "Try to stay away from things that have butter in them or are excessively high in sugar."

    That's not to say you can't have any goodies.

    Morris has a trick she uses involving chocolate and the freezer.

    "One way is to freeze the chocolate in small pieces," she said. "That way, you can stick it in your mouth and get the flavor, but it takes a while to melt so it takes less to satisfy yourself."

    So use your head. Don't overindulge. And you can still have a holiday that's mmm, mmm good.

    CNN Correspondent Toria Tolley contributed to this report.



    RELATED STORIES:
    Common sense eating hinders holiday heartburn
    November 23, 2000
    Hanukkah doesn't have to be heavy -- cut the fat
    November 30, 1999
    Simple recipe changes for healthful holiday eating
    November 12, 1999

    RELATED SITES:
    Kaiser-Permanente Home Page
    University of Michigan Health Topics: Healthy Cooking
    University of Michigan Health Topics: Balanced Diet Pointers
    American Heart Association
    American Dietetic Association: Delicious Decisions

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