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Holidays: Time to Enjoy Friends, Family & Food!

By Carol Witte, RDN, Director of Nutrition Services and Centers

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were big things!”

With each new season, with each new holiday, and with each new day it is important to stop and appreciate the little things that make life special. For your health and wellbeing, good nutrition is top on the list, but it is also important to take some time to reflect, relax and stay positive. One thing we should do each day is find something we appreciate. Let’s start with…

Friends & Family
If you come to one of Senior Services Activity & Dining Centers, you will see many people enjoying life and friends! Friends look out for each other and gather together to talk about life. There is often laughter in the conversations. Laughter is good for your health and is the perfect medicine for stress, pain and conflict. Humor can connect you to others and helps release anger. Friendship and laughter are good for your physical and mental health. Families are also important. Most of us have been shaped into the people we are because of family. The holidays are a perfect time to enjoy friends and family.

Knowledge of Healthy Food
Knowledge is the fact or state of knowing! I am thankful that in today’s world of immediate information, my training as a dietitian gave me the background knowledge needed to sort through all the research and fads. We can’t believe everything we read and fads come and go! It is often difficult to complete long-term studies related to food because of ongoing changes in food availability and the accuracy of data. As a dietitian for over 35 years, I continue to learn as much as I can and share this knowledge with others. By using the USDA nutrition guidelines, along with the ability to adjust recipes, we can provide healthy, well-balanced and nutritious food that tastes good. It is a balance of consuming the right amount of energy (calories) from protein, carbohydrates and fat food sources, along with making sure they include vitamins, minerals, micronutrients and more to help you stay healthy and happy!

Tips for Enjoying Meals for the Holidays
Life is all about balance!  Portion control is important when sharing meals with friends and family. Calories can add up even with healthy food. This is something I watch daily when planning menus for the Activity & Dining Centers and Meals on Wheels. When eating traditional holiday meals, it doesn’t take much to have those calories climb. Portion size and food choices are the way to keep it under control. You may have noticed that some portion sizes have decreased in the meals we serve here. This allows us to offer a wider variety of your favorite comfort foods from which to choose. The first bite tastes the same as the last, so take your time and savor the flavors.

Eat with color. Orange (pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, clementine and oranges), green (spinach, peppers, broccoli, beans, kiwi, pears, apples, etc.) and red (apples, red peppers, pomegranate, etc.) Eating a colorful plate of food is nutritious and beautiful!

General eating tips. While protein is an important nutrient in your diet, it should not be the only one. Choose healthier fats and carbohydrates. In preparation for a big holiday party or feast, do not skip meals throughout the day as this may cause overeating. Research has shown that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and may help stop extreme hunger which can cause overeating. You can never go wrong with increasing fiber in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fiber-rich foods are high in volume and will satisfy hunger but are lower in calories.

A few tricks that have been proven to work:

  • Use a smaller plate. This allows you to put less food on your plate and encourages proper portion sizes.
  • Start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. Eating a salad before your meal can help you eat fewer calories overall.
  • Eat slowly and savor every bite. Before you go back for seconds, wait ten minutes to see if you really are still hungry.
  • Take time to savor and enjoy the sweet treats of the holidays. You do not have to avoid them all, just limit the portion and choose your favorite.

Laughter and Life
As we appreciate the changing seasons in Michigan and come upon another  holiday season, let’s eat with color, enjoy laughter and celebrate life!  If you need more laughter, camaraderie and fun, join us at one of our Activity & Dining Centers. You can relish healthy meals, boost your happy memories and gain a new family of friends.