Health Watch -- Eating Season

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

There may be one resolution you can avoid at the new year if you take steps now.

This time of year is the eating season. You've barely overcome the sugar high from Halloween candy when Thanksgiving comes along with a groaning table full of rich food. Then there are all those holiday parties, with traditional treats like cookies and eggnog, followed by still more feasting. It's no wonder that even the most diligent dieters put up the white flag and plan on making a resolution to take off those holiday pounds once the New Year starts.

But nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say you may be able to avoid that resolution and still enjoy the holidays if you plan carefully.

Leigh Ann Kowalsky, a registered dietician and clinical nutrition instructor at UT Southwestern, says one thing you can try is making lower-calorie substitutions in your favorite recipes. Substitute nonfat milk for whole milk and replace sour cream with nonfat yogurt. Stretching mayonnaise with nonfat yogurt also saves calories. Saute using broth instead of butter. Cook using a heat resistant artificial sweetener, such as Splenda. You can use these substitutions in your big holiday meals, but if you also make low-calorie substitutions throughout the holiday season, you'll be saving calories to make up for other things you want to eat.

One way to let yourself enjoy a big holiday meal without feeling guilty is to adjust your eating for the day before and the day after the feast.

Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a nutrition professor at UT Southwestern, says it's a matter of balancing out calories. The day before the big event, cut 500 calories from your usual diet. Then, the day after the big event, cut 500 calories from your usual diet. That gives you 1,000 guilt-free calories to enjoy on the big day. Just don't get in the habit of letting yourself splurge so often that you lose track of normal healthy eating patterns. You can also adjust your eating on the day of a big party or feast so that you save most of that day's calories for the big event.

Another way to cope with the increased calorie intake of the holidays is to add more exercise to your schedule. Take walks to enjoy neighborhood holiday decor, go ice skating or take a brisk lap around the mall before you start shopping. That not only helps you burn calories, but it also helps you cope with holiday stress that may send you running to comfort food.