holiday eating

Smart Holiday Eating Strategies

Favorite childhood memories often involve enjoying the sweets and treats of the holidays. While they’re still just as delicious when we indulge in them as adults, they can lead to unwanted, post-holiday weight gain. Navigating the dinners, desserts, parties and drinks that often go hand-in-hand with holiday celebrations can be challenging for even the most disciplined eaters. This is why many gain post-holiday pounds. One way to maintain a healthy weight throughout the year is to have smart holiday eating strategies for keeping calories in check throughout the holiday season.

“Often it’s a matter of doing simple things like not going to a party hungry that can help you avoid over-indulging during the holidays,” says Marissa Licata, MS, RD, CDN, nutritionist with the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “While it’s always good to substitute healthier foods for richer holiday fare, making strategic decisions about how and when you eat during the holidays can make a big difference.” Licata suggests a variety of strategies for managing calorie consumption throughout the holidays. These include:

Don’t Skip Meals

We can all get busy decking the halls, shopping for gifts and getting together with friends and family. Yet, we still require the same level of nutrients during the holidays as we do the rest of the year. By ensuring we eat balanced breakfasts and lunches, we can greatly reduce our desire to overeat during a holiday event or meal.

Eat before a Party

It can be tempting to avoid eating during the day because you know they’ll be plenty of good food at a party. The reality is arriving at a celebration with an empty stomach is a surefire way to excessively snack (and be negatively impacted by the effects of alcohol). Before the party, eat a small healthy snack that will keep your appetite in check and you on track for eating right.

Bring Something Healthy to a Potluck

Making something for a potluck event is a wonderful way to showcase your culinary skills. This year, make it a point to whip up something healthy and flavorful. Not only will other party attendees appreciate your efforts, you’ll have a healthy option if your only other choices are cheese-laden spinach dip and pigs in a blanket.

Stand Away from the Buffet Table

It can be tempting to grab a handful of nuts or reach for that last canape, but you know they amount to empty calories that you don’t need. Don’t increase your temptation by standing close to the buffet. Instead, make a single trip through the line and eat only the items on your plate.

Carefully Select Your Buffet Offerings

Don’t make a seven-layer dip of everything on the buffet line. Choose only the items that you really enjoy and savor each bite. Loading a slab of prime rib on top of a collection of mini quiches, cocktail shrimp and chicken skewers will leave you feeling full and may keep you up all night with heartburn. Moderation is your friend!

Be Careful of Calorie-Laden Beverages

For many, holiday cheer involves a beverage or two. Yet, it’s very easy to consume hundreds of empty calories without even being aware of it. If you’re trying to keep weight in check throughout the season, you will want to avoid high calorie beverages like egg nog and high fat coffee drinks. Smarter options include wine spritzers, light beers, herbal teas, or even mineral water with a twist of lemon.

Stick to Your Exercise Schedule

Your calendar is booked, and you still have gifts to buy and trees to trim. During the holiday season, we’re all pressed for time, and scheduling exercise can seem next to impossible. Yet, exercise is not only necessary for keeping weight in check, it’s also a great stress reliever during this hectic time of year.

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about nutrition and healthy eating. For more information or to schedule an appointment with our nutritionist, call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Managing diabetes

Managing Diabetes – Don’t Let Sweetness Be Your Weakness

Many consider diabetes to be like a roller coaster with significant ups and downs, but you have the choice to be fearful or to enjoy the ride. When it comes to diabetes management, living a productive happy life is possible, but it requires a consistent effort to keep your blood sugar levels in check by making healthy lifestyle decisions.

Getting Screened for Diabetes

The first step is diagnosis. Nearly one-third of those with diabetes don’t know they have the condition (source: CDC). Because there are often few or no symptoms of type 2 diabetes, early screening is essential to avoid developing complications of the disease which include damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) need to be screened every three years. All adults need to be screened at 40. For those who have diabetes risk factors, screening should start at an earlier age and happen more frequently (USPTF). Risk factors include:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Family history of diabetes (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or siblings with the condition)
  • Physical inactivity
  • Race/ethnicity (African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, Asian-American or Pacific Islander)
  • High blood pressure (equal to or greater than 140/90)
  • History of impaired fasting glucose or gestational diabetes

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, and another 86 million have prediabetes with blood sugar levels that are higher than normal (source: CDC).

Healthy Eating for Life

Well-balanced meals are fundamental in keeping your blood sugar levels within the range recommended by your doctor and for living a long, healthy life – whether or not you have been diagnosed with diabetes. This requires knowing how food impacts your blood sugar levels. This includes the type, quantity and combinations of foods that you eat.

“If you are at risk of diabetes or have already received a diagnosis, having a consultation with a registered dietitian can be very beneficial in helping you on the right path,” says Marissa Licata, Registered Dietitian at Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “Diabetes isn’t just about avoiding sugar. It’s about being able to plan healthy meals, coordinating meals and medications and learning how to count carbohydrates and measure portion sizes.”

The Daily Routine

Along with eating healthy, there are other healthy lifestyle habits you can adopt which can help you manage your blood sugar levels. These include:

Exercising Regularly – When you stay active, your muscles use sugar for energy, and your body uses insulin more efficiently.

Following Medication Guidelines – Insulin and other medications may be prescribed if diet and exercise alone are not enough to manage your diabetes. Their effectiveness depends on the timing and size of their dose.

Managing Stress – Hormones produced in response to stress can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. It’s important to learn strategies for coping with stress in your everyday life.

Staying Informed – The more you know about your condition and what can affect your blood sugar levels, the better you can anticipate and manage fluctuations.

“When it comes to managing diabetes, the key is not to let it have you,” says Alyson Myers, MD, Medical Director, Inpatient Diabetes, North Shore University Hospital. “It’s vital to stay focused on day-to-day factors that affect your blood sugar levels. This means healthy eating, getting physical activity, taking prescribed medications, sticking to a regular sleep schedule and seeing your doctor on a regular basis.”

Join Us on the evening of November 16th for an important Katz Institute for Women’s Health (KIWH) Women’s Wellness event: Diabetes – Don’t Let Sweetness Be Your Weakness.

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about diabetes. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Creating Healthy and Flavorful School Lunches

One of the many issues facing parents of school-aged children is how to create healthy lunches that actually get eaten and not thrown out. Packing a lunchbox full of nutritious items on a daily basis can be a tremendous challenge, especially when you have finicky eaters. We all want our kids to eat a healthy lunch to maximize their ability to grow, learn and play, but how can this be balanced with making their school lunch something that they actually enjoy eating?

We spoke to Sotiria Everett, RD and nutritionist at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, to get some tips on creating school lunches that meet kids’ nutritional needs while still being fun and flavorful.  She offered some creative kid-friendly lunch ideas that pack a nutritional punch.

Get Creative with Sandwiches
The sandwich has been a lunchbox staple for generations, and it still is! However, there are now many healthy and tasty alternatives to the old PB&J or bologna sandwich. Consider using tortillas, pita bread or even lettuce instead of sliced bread to create unique sandwiches that kids will love. Venture beyond lunch meat or peanut butter by filling sandwiches with nutritious options like hummus, fresh veggies, quinoa or low-fat cheese.

Offer Alternatives like Pasta, Salad or Soup
While sandwiches are a great lunchbox option, there are many alternatives that can create a visually appealing and healthy lunch. Cooked whole-grain pasta can be tossed with peppers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets and cubes of mozzarella to create a kid-friendly cold salad.  Hot or cold soups are also satisfying, healthy options.

Individual plastic containers or reusable Bento boxes can make a fun lunchtime meal. Offer small portions of a variety of favorites like hardboiled egg slices, cubes of leftover roast chicken, carrot sticks, yogurt dip and whole wheat crackers.

Ditch the Juice Box
Fruit juice has replaced the carton of milk as the go-to lunchbox beverage. And, juice manufacturers have done a great job making parents believe that juice is as nutritious as eating a piece of fruit. While juice offers some vitamins and minerals, it contains significantly more sugar and a negligible amount of fiber.

In other words, you’re better off packing a lunch with fresh fruit and skipping the juice box. If your kids love juice, consider only packing a small 4-ounce size juice box that has no added sugar or artificial colors.

A whole piece of fruit is a great addition to a lunchbox, but there are also many other ways to offer fruit. Slices of apples with peanut butter provide both protein and delicious crunch. A skewer with cubes of mangos, pineapple, and berries is loaded with vitamins and fun to eat. Offer lots of options when it comes to fruit and be creative!

Get Them Involved in Lunch Planning
It can be frustrating to find uneaten food in lunchboxes at the end of the day – particularly when you’ve put a significant amount of time and money into packing healthy food. One very useful way to get kids to eat their lunch is to enlist their help when it comes to planning, shopping and preparing lunch items.

Sotiria Everett recommends that parents and their children visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for age appropriate nutritional information that includes activity sheets, recipes and videos. There are lots of ideas for creating delicious, healthy lunches that have been taste-tested by kids.

Have questions related to nutrition? Find out more about the KIWH Nutrition Services Specialty Program or call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-KIWH (5494) to speak with a women’s health specialist.