Eating right during the holidays

Lea Petersen

The holidays are fast approaching, and there are a few things on ISU students’ minds: finals, the cold weather and holiday food. 

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, families feast on mountains of calorie-laden comfort foods, but just because it tastes good doesn’t mean the body will make perfect use of generous proportions.

L. Lanningham-Foster, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, offered advice on making it through the holiday season without adding a pant size.

“There are definitely healthier ways to prepare foods,” Lanningham-Foster said. “Fried turkey will contain more fat and calories compared to roasted turkey. Overall, turkey is a low-fat protein option compared to some others, but preparation can impact the food greatly.”

Turkey is one of the leanest meats, compared to ham and other red meats, and white meat is less fattening than dark meat, according to Health Discovery’s website. White meat can be found in the breast of poultry while dark meat is in the drumstick. Taking off the skin of the animal will also greatly reduce calories.

Lanningham-Foster said avoiding certain foods all together is not going to be as beneficial as eating in moderation.

Use light options to dressings and butters, Lanningham-Foster said. Thinly spreading fat-free butter on a dinner roll will save calories while maintaining enjoyable taste. If a recipe calls for milk, use skim or 1-percent milk instead of 2-percent or whole milk.

“One important point to make about holiday eating is that many of us do not eat the large holiday meals on a regular basis,” Lanningham-Foster said. “For us to gain weight and become less healthy due to excessive caloric intake, it has to be maintained over a longer period of time than just one day. If someone eats excessively one day, they may be likely to eat lighter in the day or two following and/or increase their activity amount.”

While promoting exercise, Lanningham-Foster said, one must participate in physical activity “at a good intensity and period of time to burn sufficient calories to counterbalance the extra intake.”

Even if an entire workout doesn’t fit in a hectic day, a short walk is better than nothing. Lanningham-Foster said exercising in the morning might help keep one’s metabolism operating at a higher rate for the beginning of the day.

“Be physically active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week, but children need to be active even more [60 minutes a day)],” Lanningham-Foster said.