DENTON (UNT), Texas — University of North Texas registered dietician Ann Marie Afflerbach, a lecturer in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, offers advice for healthy eating during the holidays and for making healthy-eating resolutions.
Is there anything people can do before Jan. 1 to set themselves up for success for the New Year?
“Make little changes now such as adding at least one fruit or vegetable serving to your daily diet. Don't have tempting sweets around if you are wanting to decrease calories for weight loss,” Afflerbach recommends.
“Beverages have a lot of calories, so try switching out the soda for water to feel better and more hydrated,” she says.
What are some easy steps people can take to change their New Year diet?
"Look for low hanging fruit, and don’t try to change all at once,” she says. “Make little changes such as adding one more glass of water to your fluid intake or adding a cup of sliced fruit or vegetables each day. Also try making your own trail mix with chocolate covered raisins or chocolate chips for a little sweet treat along with the nuts and high fiber cereal or crackers in it. Little changes are much easier to accomplish than big goals that seem overwhelming.”
Also, she suggests people “focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. This will provide not only extra fiber to the diet, but also vitamins, minerals and a little bit of fluid. By loading up on fruits and vegetables, there won't be much room for less healthy choices.”
What are common pitfalls people should avoid?
“Many resolutions set you up for failure because they are too unrealistic,” she says. “Make achievable goals instead. For example, don't make a resolution to knock sugar out of your diet. Set a goal to decrease added sugar in the diet by eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Another could be to set a goal to exercise at least 30 minutes, three times a week and this could be something as easy as walking.”
Dining out is big in your industry – hospitality and tourism. How can people accommodate their non-home prepped meals?
“Dining out can be the biggest challenge,” Afflerbach notes. “If you dine out often, then choosing healthier options is a must.”
“Many restaurants use butter, oils, salt, etc. to cook and flavor the foods. That butter and oil contains calories, helping to make the items a little bit higher in calories. Choose grilled and roasted options, steer away from gravies and sauces unless on the side, and ask for more vegetables if available,” she says.
“If you do not eat out very often, then dining out does not need to be stressful,” Afflerbach continues. “Choose wisely, but enjoy if it is your favorite restaurant you visit once a year.”
Can individuals lose weight on diet changes alone?
“Diet changes are a huge way to lose weight,” says Afflerbach. “Diet changes usually involve decreasing or avoiding that one food/beverage or several that is/are adding many extra calories that have led to weight gain. By decreasing calories, weight can be lost. However, exercise can help in the caloric burn.”
Should eating at holiday parties or dinners be avoided?
“If you have many holiday parties to attend, this can sabotage good eating habits. Just remember to choose wisely and remember that drinks have calories (alcohol contains seven calories per gram). Think about eating prior to attending most of these parties so you don't overdo it. If food at one party is sure to be the best, indulge at that party and be picky at the others.”
She added that it’s okay to not focus solely on food.
“Holidays can be a stressful time due to busy schedules, visiting family, preparing the holiday meals, etc.,” she continues. “Food brings people together, especially at the holidays. Enjoy the time with family and friends, enjoy the food and remember to make healthier choices before and after the holiday gathering.”