Healthy Holiday Food Options Eyed

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 15, 2008

While the holidays are traditionally a time when most peopleplan to eat well and often, some people still try to maintain adiet or lose unwanted pounds, and local food experts say there areactually ways to pull it off.

Pampered Chef Harriett Proffitt said one major strategy is totry to keep serving sizes down. Sometimes, she said, a diner’s eyescan be bigger than their stomachs.

“Portion control is the main problem for us at the Proffitthouse. Think of your portions as something you can visualize,” shesaid, adding that finding household items to measure against inyour head can save a load of calories.

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One ounce of cheese would be the size of a domino, or a servingof meat would be the size of a deck of cards, and two tablespoonsof peanut butter would be about the size of a thumb.

“One potato? The size of your computer mouse! Oh dear,” Proffittsaid, adding that a serving of cereal should fill a cupcake linerand a half-cup of fruit is the size of a tennis ball.

Meanwhile, she said, fresh fruits and vegetables are always abetter choice for holiday cooking because the flavor is better, butalso because they don’t pack the additives that some canned foodshave.

Proffitt said that there are many recipes that have festiveflavors that still don’t load on the pounds like some holidaydishes. A serving of coconut shrimp with a tangy dipping sauce or afresh tomato and basil bruschetta can add a fancy twist to a mealwithout adding inches to the waistline.

“Main dishes can be bursting with flavor and freshness, leaner,lighter and more luscious than ever!” Proffitt said. “Grill yourfavorite fish, serve it on a bed of couscous or wild rice, and topit with fresh salsa – and fresh mango salsa is divine.”

Meanwhile, health-conscious people also point out it’s not onlythe food choices that make a difference during the holidays, it’smaintaining reasonable goals and a feasible exercise routine.

“I try to focus on maintaining my weight instead of losingduring the holidays,” said Sarah Kelly of Monticello as she browsedthe fresh vegetables a local market. “I figure if I’m overweightand want to lose weight, this isn’t when it will happen.”

Kelly said she also tries to remember to walk her Labradorretriever, Buddy, every day.

“He needs it as much as I do this time of year, because he getsall the scraps,” she said. “I think that’s what really keeps myfamily from getting heavier is that we stay active.”

Christmas parties can be a deterrent to holiday health anddieting too, said Amanda Martin of Brookhaven. She said she cancontrol her eating at home, but sometimes the nights out can causeextra pounds anyway.

“Sometimes I have to try to remember to fill up on yogurt orfruit before I go to the parties to keep myself away from the snacktable,” she said. “Either that or drink a big glass of water tofill up my stomach.”

And remember when desserts are on the menu that there are viablealternatives to the usual carb-packed dishes, Proffitt said.

“Substitute Splenda, eat some angel food cake, or bake an appleand pile fresh berries on to frozen yogurt,” she said.

But even Proffitt agrees there’s really only one way to reallycelebrate the tradition of Christmas at the dinner table.

“To be in perfect shape for the holiday, I’m going to let myround little belly shake when I laugh like a bowl full of jelly,”she said.