Holiday Meal Planning

Thanksgiving is over – but the Christmas holiday is only just beginning.  Stores are packed, UPS and FedEx are working overtime and holiday baking is in full swing.  Amidst this exciting, yet often chaotic time of year, it is important to remember to stick to a healthy overall meal plan, to keep your energy levels up and immunity strong.  Nourishing yourself with healthy foods, along with getting regular moderate intensity physical activity and plenty of sleep and relaxation time are usually your best bets to warding off sicknesses, managing stress and maintaining your energy levels.

Speaking of immunity, if you still have Thanksgiving leftovers in the refrigerator, it is past time to throw them out.  According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), cooked meat and poultry leftovers are only fresh in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.  Cooked stuffing is fresh about 3-4 days, too.  Gravy is only good for 1-2 days, so definitely throw any away if it is still lingering in your refrigerator.  For more information on food storage safety, visit http://www.foodsafety.gov.

As for the rest of your meal plan, too often, Americans throw a healthy meal plan out the window when the holidays arrive.  However, try to avoid the “all or nothing” mentality.  You can still enjoy a few indulgences here and there, while sticking to an underlying healthy meal plan.  For instance, it is fine to sample the holiday treats that local stores may offer, such as hot chocolate, cookies and pastries.  And, it is even fine to purchase a few for you and your friends or family to enjoy together.  Your body will best manage these discretionary (extra) calories if you are healthy and managing your weight with a basic healthy meal plan.

So, starting your day with a balanced breakfast is a good way to begin.  Think whole grains (in cereals, English muffins, breads, bagels), fruits and proteins.  Combining proteins with carbohydrates at all meals and snacks is the best way to manage hunger and satiety levels, reducing the changes that you will have strong cravings or urges to overeat later in the day.  Popular, healthful breakfast proteins include lowfat dairy products (i.e. milk, yogurt and cheese), dairy alternatives (i.e. soymilk), peanut butter, eggs and egg whites, lean meats and meat alternatives (i.e. soy sausage).  You also get some protein from grains.  Many grain products like cold cereals and breakfast bars contain extra protein (often from milk or soy protein ingredients) and fiber, too.  Fiber is especially helpful in preventing disease and managing satiety levels.

So, as you prepare for a day at the office, at the mall or at home doing chores, remember to keep your breakfast balanced.  Continue to eat healthfully throughout the day, too, and know that in moderate amounts, your body will be able to handle some discretionary calories along the way.  As with any time of the year, we should all focus on balance, variety and moderation to keep us healthy.

Be well,

Julie

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