Make the Holiday Buffet Your Friend This Season

Smaller portions are key to healthy indulgence, expert says

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SUNDAY, Dec. 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Dieting got you playing Scrooge with all those holiday treats?

One expert nutritionist says you don't have to deprive yourself of favorite yuletide goodies -- just enjoy them in moderation.

Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, offered up some tricks to avoid overindulging.

"The first rule of thumb for eating at holiday gatherings is never go to the party hungry," said Diekman in a prepared statement. "Have a little something healthy before you go -- a piece of fruit, half a sandwich or a glass of milk. Be sure when you arrive that you aren't overly hungry."

When you get to the party, survey the buffet table and think about how you're going to approach it.

"Plan on getting your food off the buffet table and then moving away from the table to eat. Use a plate, and don't stand at the table and pick at the food. Seeing what is on the plate begins the process of realizing how much food is enough for you," Diekman said.

Two-thirds of your plate should be filed with fruits, vegetables and whole-grains. The remaining third can be meats, sauces, and high-fat, high-calorie foods.

If you find it hard to resist everything on the table, try to limit yourself to just small portions of each item.

"It's perfectly fine to do that, as long as you don't gorge yourself. Try some of everything if you have to, but do it in moderation," Diekman said.

"In truth, the [holiday] period is not all that long when taken in the context of an entire year. What people shouldn't do is worry too much and start limiting lots of foods, especially if it's a once-a-year food. If you cut out those things entirely, you'll just end up eating more. Don't cut out those foods, just shift to smaller portions," she said.

It's also important to limit alcohol intake and get exercise, she added.

"Exercise is a great way to combat holiday stress, and it gives you some balance if the eating is a little out of hand. After you've eaten a big meal, let your food digest, and then get out and move around. Take a walk. Try not to sit on the couch all day long," Diekman said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about portions.

SOURCE: Washington University in St. Louis, news release, December 2006

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