SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Now's the time to make healthy choices

Maureen Wendt

The holiday season will soon be upon us. For many, the holidays are a time of travel, parties, big meals, snack foods and drinking — and all can create a challenging environment for eating healthy. Also, during the holiday season, so many people fail to prepare for the onslaught of junk food, chocolates, candy and other snacks and unhealthy meals that will assault them during this season.

Here are some tips for healthy eating for the holidays, as well as an invitation to low-pressure workshops and nutrition counseling that are designed to help you get through the holidays without overdoing it.

If you're starving while shopping and you have to get something to eat, choose one of the healthier restaurants instead of the fast food options inside the food court. Believe it or not, loud and chaotic environments actually cause people to eat more. At a restaurant you can order a sensible meal and avoid the high-calorie, high-fat, high sugar meals that you'd typically get in a fast food setting.

It's really tough avoiding junk food and other unhealthy snacks during the holiday season no matter where you are, but surprisingly enough, this is especially true at the office. People are always bringing in all kinds of delicious yet calorie-laden snacks. The attraction is incredibly difficult for many people, mostly because they haven't prepared for the inevitable onslaught of holiday temptations. To combat these temptations, we highly recommend leaving healthy snacks on hand at the office. If you have something else to munch on while everyone else is stuffing their face with holiday treats, you'll be able to stick to your healthy eating plan and not feel deprived or left out.

Don't deprive yourself completely. You'll get frustrated, feel unhappy and ultimately give up and go overboard. So, indulge a bit during the holidays and then immediately go back to your healthy meal plan when you're through.

While attending holiday parties, avoid high-calorie foods by not putting too many of them on your plate when you decide to eat. When we have a variety of different foods on our plates, we tend to eat more no matter how hungry we are, so put less food on your plate and you'll find it easier to avoid. Eat a small, balanced meal or snack before you leave home to avoid snacking. Study all of the food options, and think about what you are going to have before you put anything on your plate. Decide which foods are worth eating and which can be ignored, and then stick to that decision.

Hosting? Make sure the menu includes healthy food choices such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Avoid frying or adding extra fat during cooking. Clear the table and put away unused food to help guests avoid grazing. Are you a guest at a family member's or friend's home? Offer to bring a healthy dish that you know you will enjoy and can substitute for a not-so healthy options.

After your meal, take a walk with family and friends. Exercise will get you moving, keep you focused on your goals, and give you a welcome break from being surrounded by treats.

Traveling this holiday season? The eating on-the-go that comes along with travel can make it hard to maintain control of food choices. Bring along snacks that are both satisfying and convenient like protein-packed beef jerky, single pouches of tuna and string cheese and high-fiber, plant-based foods like fresh fruit, banana chips, nuts, seeds and roasted chickpea snacks.

There are always endless reasons to not make changes. Whether it's the difficulty of limiting holiday indulgences or not wanting to disappoint your host by saying no to second portions, excuses abound. It might seem like there couldn't be a worse time than the start of the holiday season to commit to a healthy lifestyle, but in fact there's no better time than now. Considering that holiday eating often results in excess weight gain that only leads to New Year's resolutions and dieting, starting now can help reframe old thinking patterns and stop procrastination.

During this holiday season make a promise to put yourself at the top of your list. And, consider attending one or all of these free workshops at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario St., Lockport, to help support your healthy eating goals during the holidays and beyond.

Healthy Eating for the Holidays — Learn the basics to weight management (or even weight loss) while still enjoying the fun, food and festivities at 10 a.m. Nov. 18. You will learn tips on how to avoid overdoing it, as well as recipes and ways to make your favorite holiday foods fit into a healthy eating plan. The presenter is Jennifer Johnson, health information coordinator, BlueCross Blue Shield of Western New York.

Keeping A Safe Kitchen — Join presenter Sarah Martin from Cornell Cooperative Extension and explore simple ways to make your kitchen safe and keep food safe, too, from noon to 1 p.m. Nov. 20. A variety of topics will be covered, from knife safety to proper food storage. A cooking demo, free samples and recipes are included.

How Much is a Serving? — Sarah Martin returns to teach about what a healthy portion looks like, plus some handy tricks for measuring food on the go, from noon to 1 p.m. Dec. 18. A cooking demo, free samples and recipes are included.

Nutrition counseling — Nutritional counselor Sandy Harmon, is available the first Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Dale; sign up for a half-hour complimentary evaluation. Learn the fundamentals of good nutrition to set and accomplish your personal goals to look good, meet medical needs and feel healthy. In addition, Sandy is willing to help you meet your weight loss goals. Call 263-3021 if you'd prefer to speak on the phone or set up an appointment that better fits your schedule.

I hope we can help you enjoy the holidays without overdoing it!

Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of The Dale Association, a non-profit organization that provides senior, mental health, in-home care, caregiver support services and enrichment activities for adults. For more information, call 433-1937 or visit .

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