Turkey  breast for holidays

The holidays mean time for family parties and, for many people, time to indulge with large meals and an abundance of snacks.

While we enjoy our beloved traditional foods, it is important to not overdo it.

Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian nutritionist for Zhou Nutrition with a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University, says finding the fine line between indulging and overindulging is the most important thing.

“I think people need to look at the big picture,” Manaker says. “They can enjoy their favorite foods but also balance it out with healthier foods and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Oranges, grapefruits, pears and cranberries all pair so well with holiday foods and they’re packed with important nutrients,” she continues. “People shouldn’t forget to add some fresh produce to their stuffing and other side dishes to pack in some nutrition without having to give up their favorite holiday foods.”

Manaker also says an increase in alcohol consumption surrounding holiday parties and events causes problems with diets.

“I see alcohol becoming a very big indulgence that time of the year,” she says. “It can increase caloric intake and can also lower inhibitions so that people aren’t making the smartest choices. People tend to overeat if they overindulge on alcohol.”

Manaker suggests alternating between alcoholic drinks and water to stay hydrated and limit empty calories.

She also has a tip for dealing with your appetite before long holiday parties.

“One thing I like to tell people to do is kind of go against what their mom always said … try to spoil your appetite if you know you’re going to be at a party with a lot of fried and fatty foods,” she says. “It can be something as simple as eating a handful of walnuts an hour before you go to the party.

“That can make you feel like you don’t have to grab the first thing you see when you get to the party, because you’re not feeling ravenous.”

Manaker is a big proponent of snacking on walnuts. Feel free to include some cheese on your appetizer plates, as well.

“Nuts are one of the greatest things for people to eat, especially walnuts,” she says. “They’re packed with healthy fats and fiber and plant-based proteins that help people stay satisfied longer. That will, hopefully, make them eat less in the long run.

“Cheese can surprisingly be a great choice because it has high-quality protein that is very satisfying. It’s a nice food to combine with other foods.”

Many traditional holiday foods are already nutritious, but are often altered in ways that take away from their value, according to Jenna Anding, Ph.D., a nutritionist and professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Texas A&M University.

“The sweet potato, for example, contains fiber as well as vitamins A and C,” Anding says. “A medium-sized baked sweet potato contains about 100 calories, but many people add sugar, butter and other ingredients, which really ups the calorie count. A baked sweet potato with a little brown sugar and cinnamon is far healthier than one topped with butter, sugar and marshmallows.”

Anding suggests slightly altering recipes while still enjoying all your holiday favorites.

“The sugar, fat or sodium content of many holiday recipes can be reduced without a noticeable difference in taste,” Anding says. “If a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, try using three-fourths or two-thirds of a cup. If it calls for a half-cup of oil, shortening or other fat, try one-third of a cup instead.”