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A healthy approach to holiday eating: Academy dietitian shares the eating do's and don'ts this season

(U.S. Air Force photo/courtesy photo)

(U.S. Air Force photo/courtesy photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- When it comes to holiday get-togethers, the line from Dr. Seuss's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" sums them up well, "And they'd feast! And they'd feast! And they'd feast! feast! feast! feast!"

Making smart food choices this time of year isn't easy amid baked goods in the office, holiday potlucks and every finger food imaginable presented on Super Bowl Sunday, but, Jenny Guivens, a registered dietitian with the 10th Medical Group Health Promotion Flight, said the best way Airmen can stay healthy this season is to ditch dieting and focus on moderation.

When attending a party, go in with a plan, Guivens said.

"Scope out what foods you'd like to try and stick to those items," she said. "If it's not awesome, leave the food on your plate or don't take it. We need to live life and enjoy things, so it's about being practical, reasonable and having a plan. It's when we start eating mindlessly or have the excuse of the holiday to overindulge when we end up in trouble."

Stick to your regular meal and snack schedules during the holidays, Guivens said.

"Get your strong foods first," she said. "Start with a fruit or vegetable for a snack and stick to your routine as best as you can. It's okay to have a treat but that shouldn't be your excuse to have the entire plate of cookies or every treat presented."

Guivens said to skip out on foods you can enjoy any time of the year, such as chocolate chip cookies.

"Mashed potatoes and dinner rolls are other examples," she said. "Those are things we eat year-round so go for the foods that are special on that day and avoid massive amounts of it."

According to Guivens, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to know your stomach is full. She said after your first portion--wait to decide if you're still hungry.

Don't set yourself up to overindulge, Guivens said.

"Letting ourselves get too hungry by skipping meals or snacks is a big mistake," she said. "Also, alcohol consumption can loosen your inhibitions, causing you to overeat. Avoid it or have a glass of water in between each drink."

Substitute healthier alternatives when cooking and baking, Guivens said.

"Substitute applesauce instead of syrup or oil," she said. "You can always substitute regular flour for whole wheat flour, and add walnuts or flaxseed to improve the nutrient quality of your food. Also, adding low-fat milk instead of cream is a healthier option."

Think carbs before exercise, Guivens said.

"If you're eating every three hours and need some food fuel before the gym-- munch on a banana, piece of toast or yogurt beforehand," she said. "If you won't be eating for a while after your work-out consume some protein such as a protein shake."

Active duty, retirees or dependents here can set up individual appointments with Guivens to discuss their nutritional goals. They can also attend pre-diabetes, diabetes and heart health classes at the 10th MDG Health Promotion Flight.

"Nutrition we know is proven to play an important role in maintaining health and wellness," Guivens said. "When we're dieting, we're expected to eat perfectly or else we're completely off of it. That's where we can go wrong. Any step you take to improve the nutrient intake in your day is a good step.  You don't have to be perfect at it."