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Ask the Dietician: How to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays


By Weight Loss Surgery Team

The holiday season is an occasion for celebration and connecting with friends and family, but it is also notorious for disrupting our healthy daily routines.
Today we are fortunate to sit down with our very own Dietitian, Leah Hurley, to discuss some ways to stay healthy over the holidays.
Q: Hi Leah, thank you for taking some time to chat with us. Could you briefly tell us a bit about what you do?
​L: I am a registered dietitian and Bariatric Coordinator at Roger Williams Medical Center. I help people manage their medical conditions and individual needs through food and nutrition. I counsel weight loss surgery patients pre- and post- surgery to help them understand their nutrition requirements. Also, I hold support groups for those interested in Weight Loss Surgery to educate and support them with pre-operative and post-operative nutrition care.
Q: We often hear about how people struggling to stay active and healthy over the holidays, but is this true, or simply a misconception?
​L: This is a very true statement. There is no doubt that November and December can be a very busy time for people and often include many parties and get-togethers where we tend to over-indulge. The average American gains 5 pounds during this time.
Q: What do you find are the most common mistakes people make and how are some ways we can avoid them?
L: I find that people accept that this is a busy time and choose to continue to over-indulge and start fresh on January 1. This can only make January 1 harder than it should be. Instead, I encourage patients to enjoy the party or get-together with family and friends but don't let that ruin the next day, even if it is in the middle of the week, everyday is a new day to start fresh. After you enjoyed your party, wake-up and get back to your normal routine, don't let this one occasion set you back!
Make good choices when you can, if you are asked to bring an item, try bringing a healthy option that you enjoy. 
Make sure you're drinking enough water! Often times, our bodies play tricks on us and tell us we are hungry when actually, we need more water! 
Use a smaller plate and chew slow. This will allow you to get the taste of the indulgent food and actually savor it.
Q: It is hard not to imagine the holidays including indulgent deserts and savory comfort food! Are there any recommendations you can share with us, such as making healthier substitutions.
L: That is very true! I always encourage patients to try to create healthier options when they can, most of the time, a indulgent dish that has a healthy twist is always big hit at parties!
Some tips for creating healthier recipes:
  1. Add fruits and vegetables: grated or pureed apple, carrot, banana or pumpkin to your recipes to add nutrients, flavor and moisture so you can cut some of the sugar, oil or butter

  2. Include whole grains: swap all purpose flour for whole-wheat flour 1:1 to boost fiber and vitamin content

  3. Use low-fat dairy: low-fat milk, buttermilk, yogurt and cheese can be used to cut the fat in many recipes. Low-fat Greek yogurt can be used in place of cream cheese or sour cream for frostings, cakes, pies or dips for added protein and reduced fat.

  4. Cut the sugar: reduce sugar in recipe by 25%, ¾ cup instead of 1 cup, and I bet you will not be able to tell the difference!

  5. Reduce the fat: unsweetened applesauce can be used instead of oil, butter or margarine 1:1 to reduce fat content

Q: Finally, With the cold temperatures and the fireplace roaring it can be tough to motivate ourselves to remain active over the holiday and winter season. How important is exercise relating to our weight?
L: Physical activity is very important during this time! I know that it is getting colder, everyone is running around preparing for the next event and it is getting darker sooner, but, I encourage all patients to do what they can during the holidays. When going to the store, park a little farther away so you can get more steps in. Actually go to a shopping center and walk around when looking for gifts. After a big meal, take a walk with a family member or friend. Host parties to get you to move around while cleaning your place.

Q: Thank you so much, Leah, this is helpful to all of our readers in every stage of their weight loss journey. We look forward to hearing more from you in the future. Happy holidays!

L: Happy Holidays everyone, enjoy!

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