K-State Research and Extension News
November 10, 2009
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Enjoy Holiday Foods Without Adding Extra Pounds

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Here a nibble, there a nibble, everywhere a nibble. . .

With November, December and January -- from the day after Halloween until the end of play at the Super Bowl -- often referred to as "the eating season," adding a few extra pounds is easy to do. 

"Given holiday schedules, normal activities, such as eating, sleeping and exercise often are set aside in favor of holiday activities and events," said Tanda Kidd, K-State Research and Extension nutrition and physical activity specialist.  

And, while spending time with family and friends is enjoyable, most activities include seasonal foods that often are high in calories, sugar and fat.

"Still, an invitation to a party or special event should not be considered an invitation to overeat," said Kidd, who offered tips to enjoy holiday foods without adding pounds:

* Schedule regular meals and snacks during the holiday season. Eating lightly before a party or event can take the edge off the appetite, and still leave room for sampling party foods but not overeating.

* Make healthy snacks available, such as fruit, low- or reduced-fat cheeses, whole grain crackers or cut-up vegetables and low-calorie dip.

* Store high-calorie foods out of sight.

* Survey a buffet table before getting in line to choose foods.

* The first bite introduces the flavor and texture of food, but will typically taste the same as the last bite. So, healthwise, there is an advantage to choosing the smallest, rather than the largest, serving on the buffet table.

* Choose a smaller plate and a variety of foods.  

* Return a fork or spoon to the plate or bowl after each bite, and chew slowly to enjoy the flavor and texture of the food.

* Reduce temptation by choosing a seat well away from the buffet table.

* Socialize, rather than rationalize second helpings, by engaging in conversation or activities away from the food table. Wait 20-30 minutes after eating before considering a return trip to the buffet table.

*If preparing food for a buffet and or hosting a holiday party, Kidd recommends offering a variety of foods and making sure that low-fat and low-calorie foods are available.

Saying that isn't the same as saying "let's skip Aunt Evelyn's angel cookies (or other familiar family favorite) this year," she said.

"Family favorites and holiday foods can be enjoyed in moderation," Kidd said. "As an example, two medium (2 1/4 -inch) cookies is typically considered a serving,"

Plus, choosing lower-fat versions of spreads, gravies and toppings can yield a calorie savings without significantly altering flavor, said Kidd, who also suggested planning and/or choosing activities and events that don't involve food.

If tired or stressed and beginning to think about food, though still feeling full from a previous meal, consider an early bedtime or a walk around the block, rather than a trip to the kitchen to add unnecessary calories.  

Chewing gum, sucking on sugar-free hard candy, or simply doing some stretching exercises -- reach for the ceiling, rather than a piece of cake -- also can help to tame the temptation to use food to ease fatigue or stress, Kidd said.

And, if a holiday host preparing food for a party or gifts, taste, rather than graze, Kidd said.

More information on food, nutrition and health, and managing holiday meals is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on the following Extension Web sites: www.ksre.ksu.edu; www.ksre.ksu.edu/humannutrition; www.ksre.ksu.edu/foodsafety.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Nancy Peterson
K-State Research & Extension News

Tanda Kidd is at 785-532-0154 or, by e-mail, at martan@ksu.edu.