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Healthy Eating Around the Holidays

Dana Friedman December 07, 2010 2:00 PM This chat has ended. Thank you for participating.
Patrick Gut (Moderator) - 2:00 PM:
Welcome! Today’s chat: ‘Healthy Eating Around the Holidays’ will begin shortly. Please start submitting your questions and Dr. Dana Friedman will begin answering them as soon as we get started.

Dana Friedman (NorthShore) - 2:01 PM:
Welcome to our online chat on Healthy Eating During the Holiday Season. My name is Dana Friedman and I have been a Registered Diettian for 18 years. I currently work as a dietitian throughout the whole hospital system for NorthShore University HealthSystems. I am looking forward to answering your questions today.

Tim (Evanston) - 2:02 PM:
Are there any holiday food staples that start out healthy with the main ingredients but take a turn for the worse once you add things to them? What are they?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
Many of the foods that we eat during this time of year can start off healthy but can 'turn worse' as we add things to them. Some examples of these food items would be turkey (by adding sauces and gravies), vegetables like green beans/sweet potatoes/regular potatoes (by making them into casserole type dishes that include adding extra fat, sugar and calories).

Liz (Northbrook, IL) - 2:04 PM:
Is it better to limit your alcohol intake during the holiday season? Sometimes it tends to cut off my appetite, but I hear that it can be high in calories.

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
It is always a good idea to try and limit your alcohol consumption - no matter what time of year it is. A good guide for alcohol consumption is either 1 glass of wine, 12 ouces of beer or 1 and 1/2 ounces of a hard liquor (women should have one serving while men can have 2 servings). Alcohol can actually increase your appetite and and lowers your resolve to stay in control of your healthy eating goals.

Olivia (Evanston, IL) - 2:07 PM:
I was recently told I am insulin resistant and need to lose weight. What type of foods should I cut out of my diet?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
A good starting point for someone who is insulin resistant is to try to limit what we would call concentrated sweets. That would include items that contain sugar like regularly sweetened sodas, cakes, cookies, pies, brownies and ice cream (to name a few). Your goal should also be to try to increase the amount of 'healty' carbohydrates that you are eating - to include whole grain products and fresh fruits and vegetables. Another great thing is to work on your portion control of carbohydrate containing foods and of course, increase your physical activity.

Patrick Gut (Moderator) - 2:09 PM:
Please join Northshore University HealthSystem’s dietitian, Kim Hammon, for a Heart Healthy Eating Presentation on Tuesday, December 7th from 4 to 5 pm at Skokie Hospital. Please call 847-933-6902 to register for this great event.

Kelly (Lincolnwood, IL) - 2:09 PM:
Would it be better to skip eating before extravagant dinners?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
Usually we recommend trying to have a healthy snack before heading out for extravagant dinners - it will help to make you start feeling full while also helping to avoid that binging type of activity that we often see this time of year.

Liz (Evanston, IL) - 2:12 PM:
Are there certain deserts that are healthy to eat?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
There is always the old stand by of fresh fruit for dessert - but some other options that are lower in fat include fat free frozen yogurts (which can be made into 'ice cream' pies), sugar free gelatin desserts, frozen sorbets or Italian ices. Baked good recipes can always be modified to make dessert items more healhty.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:14 PM:
I tend to eat really quickly, and then notice when I’m full before it’s too late. How do I pace myself?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
There are many tips on how to control your rate of eating - but they definitely require some thinking. Some of the suggesttions that I use when counselling clients include the following: 1. Try to set down your utensils between each bite. 2. Try to take a drink of a calorie free or low calorie beverage between each bite. 3. Encourage dinner that is engaging to you if you eat with others. Hope this helps.

Renee (Skokie) - 2:16 PM:
Are there any good substitutes for traditional (unhealthy) foods around the holidays?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
Many foods that are typically eaten during this time of year are already healthy - it is what we do to them that makes them unhealthy.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:18 PM:
I heard it’s better to eat before parties and family dinners; can’t that still force you into overeating at the party? What do you recommend?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
If you know what is being served at the Holiday party - it is always good to have a healthy snack before going. This will not force you into overeating at the party - but make you somewhat satisfied before arriving at the party. Another option, if you don't feel like eating before the party, is to bring a dish with you that is healthy so that you know what you are eating.

Isabel (Highland Park) - 2:21 PM:
I enjoy a cocktail here and there, and seems like there are more here and theres during the holidays with parties to go red wine the least detrimental when compared to beer or liquor?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
As far as calories go, a serving of red wine (6 ounces) may be a better choice depending on what your cocktail or beer choice may be. Remember that mixed drinks can often be high in calories because of the item the alcohol is mixed with. Another option would be to increase your physical activity this time of year to help offset some of the extra calories.

JP (Chicago) - 2:23 PM:
We travel a lot around the holidays. How can I eat right on the go? Is it possible to eat healthy in an airport or drive-thru?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
A good idea for on the go eating is to pack healthy snacks like fresh fruit, pretzels, granola bars, nuts (in small quantities) to have with you at all times. It is possible to eat healthier in the airports and at the drive thrus - it is all about the decisions we make. Try to avoid fried food items, sauces and drinks that can be laden with calories.

Liz (Northbrook, IL) - 2:25 PM:
I heard it’s better to eat before parties and family dinners; can’t that still force you into overeating at the party? What do you recommend?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
It is better to have a healthy snack before heading out for a holiday dinner/meal. This helps you to start feeling satisfied as far as hunger goes - and ensures that you have something healthy to possibly balance out any unhealthy choices that you may make later.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:27 PM:
I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes during the holidays, is there any healthy way to eat them – besides with marshmallows or whipped cream?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
Baked potatoes are great when baked in the oven - you can sprinkle a little bit of Splenda Brown sugar or light maple syrup on them if you are looking to ehance the sweet taste.

Liz (Northbrook, IL) - 2:29 PM:
It’s hard for me to get sleep over the holidays, because of everything that is going on. Will that affect how my body digests food?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
A lack of sleep most likely will not affect how your body digests food. Sometimes, when we do not get enough sleep, we think that being tired is actually hunger and will eat to compensate for that feeling - or we may make unhealthy food choices to 'wake us up'

Patrick Gut (Moderator) - 2:34 PM:
Please join Northshore University HealthSystem’s dietitian, Kim Hammon, for a Heart Healthy Eating Presentation on Tuesday, December 7th from 4 to 5 pm at Skokie Hospital. Please call 847-933-6902 to register for this great event.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:35 PM:
I heard it’s a good idea to walk after your meal, because you’ll burn off what you ate. Is this true?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
Walking after a meal aids in digestion and will help you burn off some of the calories that you just ate. A good idea during the holiday season is to plan for exercise. Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and prevent unwanted weight gain during this time of year. A moderate daily increase in exercise can offset increased holiday eating - try taking a 10 to 15 minute brisk walk twice daily.

Liz (Northbrook, IL) - 2:38 PM:
I'm the exact opposite. During the holidays with all the time off, I tend to find myself eating more. I think I eat when I'm bored. Is there anyway to prevent that behavior?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
Try other things to keep you busy like watching TV, taking a short walk, puzzles or getting out the house if nothing else just to window shop.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:39 PM:
You said try to avoid sauces - is gravy considered unhealthy?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
Yes - gravy would be considered an unhealthy choice. It is typically made with drippings/animal fats.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:40 PM:
I'm easily stressed over the holidays. Even if I watch what I eat, can the stress affect the weight I gain?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
Stress - whether it is good or bad - can unfortunately contribute to weight gain.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:41 PM:
Are there any healthy alternatives to gravy?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
There are ways to make gravies that are low in fat and calories - a possibility is starting with a fat free broth to make gravies and sauces.

Sarah (Evanston, IL) - 2:43 PM:
Do you burn more calories exercising outdoors when it's this cold, simply because you need to work harder to keep warm?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
There is no scientific evidence that I am aware of that proves or disproves this - I encourage everyone to keep up their exercise programs during the cold months (whether it is indoor or an outdoor activity).

Patrick Gut (Moderator) - 2:45 PM:
Please join Northshore University HealthSystem’s dietitian, Kim Hammon, for a Heart Healthy Eating Presentation on Tuesday, December 7th from 4 to 5 pm at Skokie Hospital. Please call 847-933-6902 to register for this great event.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:46 PM:
I'm making a large salad for an appetizer at my family dinner. Is there a specific dressing that more healthy? Or specific lettuce that is better?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
I would allow everyone to place the dressing on the salad themselves as opposed to adding it yourself. As a general rule of thumb, the creamy dressings are higher in fat - a better choice is a home made vinaigrette - with more focus on the vinegar than the oil. The dark green leafy vegetables are better choices - the Romaine or baby spinach leaves are good choices. You can even add some purple cabbage for added color if need be.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:50 PM:
Is there any food, or food group that could increase your metabolism?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
There are no foods that will specifically increase your metabolism.

Liz (Evanston, IL) - 2:50 PM:
Is there a certain balance of food groups that I should intake?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
The Food Guide Pyramid provides guidelines for daily intake - with focus on all of the food groups. A healthy way to think of a meal is called the 'plate method for meal planning' - 1/2 of your plate should be a non-starchy vegetable, 1/4 of your plate should be a whole grain or starchy vegetable and 1/4 of your plate should be a lean protein. A serving of low fat or fat free dairy can be added to the side with a piece of fresh fruit.

Patrick Gut (Moderator) - 2:51 PM:
Thank you everyone for your great participation, the chat will be ending in approximately 10 minutes. Please submit any final questions you have.

Michelle (Willmette, IL) - 2:53 PM:
Should I worry about my kids overeating during the holidays? Or is that something I should be concerned about when they're older?

Dana Friedman (NorthShore):
Healthy eating should start at an early age - but do not deprive yourself of your family. All things are okay in moderation.

Patrick Gut (Moderator) - 3:05 PM:
Thank you again for participating in our chat today. For more information please visit our Nutrition Services pages.

Also, a transcript of this chat will be available shortly.

Dana Friedman (NorthShore) - 3:06 PM:
Thank you for joining me today on our online chart for healthy holiday eating. If you have further questions or would like to visit with one of our outpatient ditians - please contact them at the following numbers. Evanston Hospital: 847-570-2016 Glenbrook Hospital: 847-657-5666 Gurnee Medical Group: 847-599-8899 Highland Park Hospital: 847-480-2634 Skokie Hospital: 847-933-6803. Thank you and Happy (and Healthy) Holidays to all of you.
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