Preparation is key to holiday health

Dietitian Becky Varner shares ideas for navigating your health through the holidays.
BY BECKY VARNER beckyvarner@cox.net Published: November 28, 2012
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The holiday season is a wonderful time to share with family and friends, leading to social celebrations that can be a roadblock to your good health.

There are so many extra tempting foods to enjoy but these can lead to overeating and weight gain. Even if it results in only an extra pound or two, a lifetime of holiday overeating can really add up.

Intake 250 calories a day more than expended over a month is 7,500 or about two pounds added weight. That's 20 pounds in 10 years.

Being health-conscious doesn't mean you can't enjoy special treats, but it sure does help to make a plan for healthful eating and activity and to stick to the plan.

Skipping meals or snacks often leads to overeating at parties. Be diligent about creating and sticking to meals that include a variety of foods from different food groups for meals.

For example, breakfast could be a hot whole grain cereal such as cream of wheat or oatmeal with dried apricots or raisins and almonds and a glass of skim milk.

A balanced lunch could include a chicken or lean roast beef sandwich made from whole grain bread with green leaf lettuce, tomato slices and a slice of reduced fat cheese along with raw vegetable crudites with a low fat dip and a fresh fruit cup for dessert.

Dinner might consist of a large vegetable salad with a low fat dressing, a small portion of fish, lean red meat or poultry, brown rice pilaf and a colorful cooked vegetable like broccoli, carrots, spinach or acorn squash.

Enjoy custard made with skim milk and fruit for dessert. Healthy snacks like fruits, nuts and whole-grain crackers can help bridge the gap.

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Strawberry Dip served with a Fruit and Nut Tray

Makes 24 servings

1 cup fat free ricotta cheese

¼ cup fat free vanilla yogurt

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon coconut flavoring

8 ounces partially thawed frozen unsweetened strawberries

4 red delicious apples

4 green pears

¼ cup unsweetened apple juice with vitamin C

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup whole almonds

• Combine ricotta cheese, yogurt, powdered sugar, coconut flavoring and strawberries in blender. Blend on medium to high speed until smooth. Pour into a chilled serving dish.

• Core apples and pears and slice in eighths. Place fruit in bowl and add apple juice. This will prevent fruit from turning brown.

• Just before serving remove fruit from apple juice and drain. Arrange apples, pears, pecans, almonds and strawberry dip on serving tray.

Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 3 cups of strawberry dip or 24 two tablespoon servings. Each serving of dip contains approximately 16 calories and no fat.

Variations: Other fruits are delicious with this dip. Try pineapple chunks, grapes and other favorites if desired. If you are short on time to prepare fruit dip try just using strawberry or cherry fat free yogurt for a dip. It is delicious!

Garlic Dip

Makes 10 servings

½ cup fat free ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1½ tablespoons minced garlic

½ teaspoon black pepper

15 ounce can of garbanzo beans, drained

• Place ricotta cheese, lime juice, garlic and pepper in blender. Blend on medium to high speed until smooth.

• Add garbanzo beans and blend again a few seconds. Turn the blender off and scrape the sides of the blender as necessary with a spatula and continue blending until smooth.

Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 1¼ cups dip and a serving is two tablespoons. Each serving contains approximately 44 calories and .5 gram of fat.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with raw vegetables such as baby carrots, celery sticks, mini peppers or large bell peppers cut in strips, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli or cauliflower florets. This dip can also be used as a sandwich spread.

The following nonalcoholic fruit punch is delicious, high in vitamin C and is beautiful served in a punch bowl.

Cranberry Citrus Punch

Makes 10 servings

2 cups reduced calorie cranberry juice, chilled

4 cups orange juice, chilled

4 cups diet tonic water, chilled

1 lime, sliced horizontally in ¼-inch slices

1 orange, sliced horizontally in ¼-inch slices

• Pour cranberry juice, orange juice and diet tonic water in a large punch bowl.

• Use ladle to stir.

• Arrange fruit slices on top to float.

• Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information: This recipe makes 10 one cup servings. Each serving contains approximately 58 calories and no fat.

Class for edible gifts offered

Becky will teach a class on making healthy edible Christmas gifts, including Spaghetti Sauce Mix, Salad Dressing Mix, Friendship Soup In A Jar, Heart Healthy Basket and Pomander Balls at the following locations: at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Uptown Grocery Co., 1230 W Covell in Edmond; at noon Dec. 5 at Buy For Less, 10011 SE 15 St. in Midwest City; at noon Dec. 11 at the Buy For Less, 3501 NW Expressway; at noon Dec. 12 at the Buy For Less, 2500 N Pennsylvania Ave. Class size is limited, call 302-6273, ext. 332, for reservations.

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