Program focuses on 'stars' of healthy holiday eating

It is very tempting during the holidays to "take a break" from healthy eating, slide off the wagon and simply make the conscious decision to overindulge. There are so many temptations, so many tasty treats available that it seems almost impossible to refrain.

Traditional holiday foods often lead to a just-as-traditional holiday weight gain. Research indicates the typical weight gain for an average-weight person is only about 1 pound during the long holiday season. That's the good news.

Others, who already are overweight, are likely to gain an average of 5 pounds during the season's eating.

The bad news? The research also revealed weight gained during winter months (by almost anyone) is not usually lost during the rest of the year.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

The Ellis County Extension will host the free educational program "Focus on the 'Stars' -- Cooking Healthy For the Holidays" at noon Tuesday at the Extension office, 601 Main. Enter the rear door from the north parking lot.

Donna Krug, Barton County Extension family and consumer science agent, will share ideas to reduce the large amounts of fat and sugar often found in holiday recipes and focus more on the "star" ingredients -- fruits and vegetables. The program will include recipes, tasting samples and nutrient comparisons for healthier versions of several holiday favorites. A leader guide and program handouts are available for those who would like to share this information with other groups.

Register by calling (785) 628-9430 to ensure adequate materials. Bring a lunch, if desired; beverages will be provided.

The availability of a greater number of high-calorie, high-fat foods and social occasions can be factors in gaining holiday pounds, but that doesn't mean holiday weight gain is inevitable.

Here are a few more tips for preventing weight gain during the holidays:

* Increasing physical activity is a good way to lessen the chance of gaining weight. Cold weather and slick outdoor conditions might call for indoor exercise. Several 10-minute walks a day or other exercise, such as stationary bicycling, helps burn calories, reduce stress and regulate the appetite.

* Satisfy your hunger with whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods. Limit consumption of high-calorie soft drinks, fruit-flavored punches and beverages containing alcohol. These add calories without nutritional benefit.

* Indulge in holiday favorites, but choose moderate portions, especially of high-fat, high- sugar foods. It is the first bite or two of cake, candy or pie that tastes the best. Maximize your eating pleasure by sampling holiday foods, rather than gorging on them.

* Reduce temptation. Store sweets, snacks and leftovers out of sight. Incidental eating -- helping yourself to a high-calorie goodie every time you're in the vicinity -- is a sure way to add unwanted pounds.

* Get adequate rest. People often eat more when they are tired.

* Shift the focus away from food. Invest your time in the spirit of the season with family, friends, and helping others, or in non-food-related leisure activities. Food can contribute to a festive holiday, but people -- and our relationships with them -- are usually what is most remembered.

Linda Beech is a Kansas State University Research & Extension agent in Ellis County specializing in family and consumer sciences. lbeech@ksu.edu