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Even the best intentions are put to the test during the holiday season. Parties with family, friends, and co-workers offer up an abundance of winter treats and a handful of opportunities to let nutrition slide to the back of your mind.

Does the holiday season have you anxious about living healthy amid all the temptation? Lee Murphy, senior lecturer in the Department of Nutrition, shares helpful advice for how you can make healthy choices this month.

Keep your activity schedule

The holidays can be the busiest time of the year for many of us. On top of normal daily routines, there are parties and get-togethers with families and friends, time spent rushing to buy presents, and a calendar’s fill of special traditions and holiday-themed activities on evenings and weekends.

“We all need to schedule our daily exercise within and amongst our busy holiday schedules,” Murphy said. “With the multitude of stressors and extra eating during holiday time, it is even more important to keep our activity levels high.”

Make your exercise a priority and do not skip being active just because you are getting busier. Keeping yourself healthy helps you to be at your best when you spend time with others.

Small, colorful plates

During the holidays, special meals and desserts make their way to the dinner table. For the partygoer, the season is a parade of treats. 

Murphy suggests keeping plates small and full of naturally colored foods.

“That means your plate is packed with nutritious and colorful vegetables and fruits,” Murphy said. “Because vegetables, especially, are high in nutrients and low in calories, they are a perfect choice at any party.”

Some studies show that if you simply use a smaller-sized plate at holiday gatherings, it may help lead you to eat less. Make it a goal to fill up at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Bring a healthy dish

Are you asked to bring something to a party? That’s good news for you. Make sure you pick an option that gives you a choice in case the only other foods available have more fats and sugars than you would normally allow in your diet.

“Bringing a healthier item to a party not only helps the host but also ensures that you have a healthy option for your own meal,” Murphy said. “This is not to say that you cannot try small samples of others’ dishes; however, keep your portions very small if you plan on tasting a lot.”

If you’re not sure what to bring, you can experiment with Murphy’s own recipe for a hacked banana apple-chunk bread.

Be careful of what you’re drinking

Eggnog and hot chocolate are holiday favorites. But when consumed in large quantities they can add unwanted sugar and calories, much like alcohol, soda, and other sugary drinks that are often swapped out for water when gathering with friends and family.

“Many times, we don’t think of the beverages we choose as adding to our daily calories, but they most certainly do,” Murphy said. “When evaluating your choices at a party or otherwise, always include drinks as part of your calorie intake.” 

CONTACT:

Brian Canever (865-974-0937, bcanever@utk.edu)

Jules Morris (865-719-7072, julesmo@utk.edu)