Health & Spirit

Nutrition News: Holiday Help

Charlyn Fargo on

Oh, the holidays. They can sabotage the greatest of intentions when it comes to healthy eating.

On average, Americans gain approximately one to two pounds during the holiday season. While this weight gain isn't dramatic, research shows it tends to stick and accumulate over the years. With just a few strategies, you can avoid holiday weight gain while still enjoying friends, family and the holiday feast.

Here are some ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

--In preparation for a big holiday party or feast, do not skip meals throughout the day. This can result in overeating later. High-fiber foods will satisfy hunger and can be lower in calories, so include fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your meals.

--Holiday meals tend to be large, buffet-style and include second and third helpings. While most wouldn't consider eating an entire cake, a common mistake is eating large portions of foods that are perceived as healthy. Including nutrient-rich foods in your diet is great, just remember that these foods have calories too and should be enjoyed in moderation.

--To avoid overeating, use a smaller plate which encourages proper portion sizes. In addition, start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. Research shows eating a salad before your meal can help you eat fewer calories overall. Eat slowly and savor every bite, and before you go back for seconds, wait 10 minutes to see if you really are still hungry.

--Take control of both the menu and your food environment. At Thanksgiving and other holiday feasts, it's OK to serve traditional fare and even desserts -- but shift the spotlight to fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts. Studies show that eating while watching a holiday football game or other television show adds 140 more calories than eating at a table with the television off, according to Tufts Health & Nutrition letter.

--Watch your beverages. Americans typically consume 22 percent of their total calories in liquid form, according to the study, "What America Drinks". However, during the holidays, that percent increases, due to eggnog or alcohol. Add seltzer, club soda or sparkling mineral water to wine to reduce calories.


--If you have taken in more calories than normal, add exercise to your holiday routine. Take a walk after the holiday meal; park further away when holiday shopping; exercise with family at the gym or doing an activity.

Q and A

Q: Does instant coffee have the same health benefits as brewed coffee?

A: Instant coffee, made by removing the water form liquid coffee, contains less caffeine, fewer antioxidant chlorogenic acids and smaller amounts of N-methylpyridinium, a putative anti-cancer compound, than found in regular coffee. Instant coffee contains more acrylamide, a potentially harmful product generated when some foods are cooked at high temperatures, than regular coffee but the amounts in both beverages are very low and considered safe. While regular coffee is not a good source of magnesium or potassium, instant coffee contains even less of these minerals. Nonetheless, studies of large populations appear to suggest comparable benefits from both instant and regular coffee in reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Base your decision to drink instant or regular coffee on aroma, taste, cost and convenience rather than the modest health benefits associated with coffee drinking. - Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.


Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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