Holiday eating made simple

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Charlottetown dietitian Nancy Fong shares some tips on how to trim the edible excess and still enjoy this sumptuous season

Atlantic Superstore dietitian Nancy Fong says good planning ahead of time can make holiday eating choices more healthful and enjoyable.

Imbibing in unhindered holiday eating can result in an unwanted consequences hanging over into the new year.

To help people avoid this conundrum, registered sports dietitian Nancy Fong of Charlottetown shares some tips on how trim the edible excess and still enjoy this sumptuous season

"Healthy eating is tough; good planning is number one, especially over the Christmas holidays. If you go to a party or you are having a party, how are you going to plan?" says Fong, who is a contract dietician for Loblaw Atlantic.

One common pitfall is not eating before an event so you can fill up on all the holiday munchies. But Fong recommends eating a small healthy meal prior to the festivities to take the edge off.

"People tend to binge (when they are super hungry) and then you're bingeing on higher fat items (that are typically served at parties). Going knowing that you've already ate and you're not starving when you get there (will help to avoid that)."

When choosing what to eat or which foods to serve your guests, Fong's mantra is that fresh is always best.

"So the less you have on it, whether it's sauce or breaded, the fresher it is, the more wholesome it is, the more nutritious it is and typically the less fat and sodium that it has. The more batters and sauces that you add it increases the chances of increasing your sodium and fat (content)," she says.

One of Fong's top suggestions is to substitute Greek yogurt where sour cream is called for.

"So if you have a dip with sour cream you can put Greek yogurt in it. If you just a sour cream as a dip for nachos or something like that, you can use a Greek yogurt," she says.

"Greek yogurt has a higher protein and lower fat (content than sour cream), but you also still have to be really careful with those because some of then that are a little bit more extravagant have a lot more fat in them."

Fong recommends using a fat-free brand, which are available in all types of flavours, such as plain, lemon and vanilla; the latter two make great dips for fruit kabobs.

Portion size is also a key element to healthy and wise holiday dining.

"If you are hosting you can do individual (servings). You can use a little clear plastic glass and put a touch of dressing on the bottom and put sticks, whether it's celery, carrot, green pepper, red pepper, lots of colour, standing up in the cup. Then they already have their dip and it's already portion controlled and people can walk around with that instead of standing over one spot," she says.

Pulling the old switcheroo for things like homemade oven-baked chicken wings with a nice low-fat low-sodium sauce instead of traditional breaded chicken wings can zing things up on the buffet table too.

"So you're going from something that was deep fried and breaded to something that's baked was baked and coated with a homemade sauce that you can control how much sodium and fat is in it," she says.

Hummus is also a healthier low-fat non-processed dip option that works well with veggies, crackers or homemade pita chips.

"Just simply cut pita bread (or flat bread) into triangles and put them in the oven for four or five minutes with just a little bit of olive oil, or you can add oregano or basil, whatever spice you want," Fong says.

"Your alternatives to (potato) chips are making your own. You can make sweet potato chips, kale chips, white potato chips."

Place thinly sliced pieces of potato on a cookie sheet, drizzle olive oil and bake at 425 F in the oven until you find the consistency you want - roughly 10 minutes on each side depending on thickness.

One simple trick to keep track of your party intake is to put all of your goodies in one visual basket, so to speak, so you can see exactly what you're eating.

"Don't just start grabbing off the table. . . use a plate. Go around once, see what your healthier options are, see what options are your must-haves. If you have five must-haves, have those but eat them slow. Socialize with the people around you and see if you're really hungry after. If you're not, then walk away from where the food is and socialize (elsewhere) so that you're not there in front of it and constantly reminded," Fong says.

"My biggest thing is slow down, eat off your plate, enjoy your food, socialize and don't beat yourself up over having a treat just make sure you realize what your treat is, but enjoy it. . . ."

Organizations: Loblaw Atlantic

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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  • Happy islander
    December 27, 2013 - 07:47

    To single parent, I'm sorry to hear you're having a hard time financially. Just one correction to your comment: not "most islanders ." I say this because as you look at the stats for various communities you can see the income levels and how many households are earning what. Yes, a lot of islanders are finding it hard. I totally understand as I am one who shops sales, stocks up on items when they're on sale, grows as much food as I can and makes a lot from scratch. If you're buying day old bread you can save a lot of money by baking it yourself and it'll be better for you than all the crappy chemicals in the bread. There are other ways to save money on food. We feed a large family for around $750 a month. And we eat well! Check out some blogs to find ways to save. Trust me, it'll help! Happy new year!

  • Single parent working poor
    December 24, 2013 - 18:52

    Most islanders don't have to worry about eating too much or too rich because they can't afford more than day old bread and marked down bologna, and if they walk the two miles instead of taking a taxi on a cold day, they can have a five pound bag of spongy apples.