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USM Faculty Member Offers Holiday Diet Advice

Holiday Diet Advice
For those working in the kitchen to make Christmas and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day parties and family meals memorable, Kingston offers a few simple tricks to help make creating holiday dishes healthier without coming up short on flavor

With so many more high-caloric food and beverage options available during the holidays, particularly at parties and family gatherings, the temptation to indulge beyond one’s normal intake while celebrating comes too easily. Roxanne Kingston, a registered dietitian (RD) and instructor in The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) College of Education and Human Sciences’ School of Kinesiology and Nutrition, says how we view this special time of year can have a big impact on our caloric intake. “There’s lots of enjoyment in getting together with friends and family for the holidays. That enjoyment also comes from consuming foods at parties that might not be in our typical eating pattern,” Kingston said. “However, I believe it is important to remember that just because you indulged at a Christmas party, the rest of your weekend or week, or even holiday season, does not have to be shot. Nobody is putting on 10 pounds from overeating at one holiday party. When that indulgence lasts for weeks is when it becomes a problem.” As a registered dietitian, Kingston is a firm believer in moderate caloric intake. With that in mind, she urges everyone to have a plan when it comes to eating during the holidays. For example, at a holiday party, Kingston suggests limiting “grazing” because it usually leads to consuming a lot more than you realize. Instead, she recommends getting a plate of food so that one can see exactly what they are consuming. This practice increases the likelihood that you will make good choices. She also advises including adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables in your regular meals during the holidays and making sure to get an appropriate amount of protein and fat at each meal to help you stay full longer. Consuming smaller meals with more snacks should also be considered. “It’s not good for your body to go into starvation mode,” she said. “If you wait all day to eat until you attend that holiday get-together, you’re probably going to overeat since you are so hungry. Eating smaller meals and snacks throughout the day can help keep your body fueled and blood glucose levels more consistent.” Kingston also advises not depriving yourself of those favorite foods that are usually only available this time of year, even if you are trying to be mindful of what you eat. “I never recommend totally avoiding certain foods,” Kingston further noted. “There are more calories wrapped up in sauces, casseroles, desserts, and high-fat meats that are typically served during the holiday season. Just watch your portion sizes. If you want a couple of bites of something you know is not good for you, take a couple bites. It’s when you eat the whole pie that it becomes a problem. “Once you have indulged in a few ‘must-have’ dishes during the holiday season, move on to fresh vegetables and fruit, healthy starches, whole grains and lean proteins to help fill you up.”

Kingston also warns against “drinking your calories” with holiday drinks or soft drinks, including alcoholic beverages, as they often contain many “hidden” calories. “Typically, no more than one or two alcoholic drinks are recommended,” Kingston said. “There are lots of hidden calories in alcohol, and depending on the drink, you could consume a lot more calories than you realize at a holiday party. “It’s also important to note that only one to two servings of caffeine are recommended per day. Consuming holiday inspired coffees can also rack up the calories.” Taking steps to watch your calories and portion sizes should also be matched with actual, physical steps, Kingston said, by staying active throughout the holidays. “Consistency is important, so don’t let your physical activity wane,” she said. “If you are thinking of changing your lifestyle for the new year by eating healthy and becoming more physically active, why not get a jump start over the holidays?” For those working in the kitchen to make Christmas and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day parties and family meals memorable, Kingston offers a few simple tricks to help make creating holiday dishes healthier without coming up short on flavor. “Anytime you use a recipe that calls for a binder - such as sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise - try a reduced fat version to be healthier for your heart,” Kingston advised. “You can also replace regular sugar with some type of sugar substitute, cooking spray to coat pans instead of butter, and applesauce instead of oil. Using vegetables for dips instead of chips or crackers is also a great option.”

Kingston offers two of her favorite recipes to help you meet your healthy eating goals during the holidays: Grape Salad Ingredients: 1 lb. Green grapes 1 lb. Red grapes 4 oz. Light cream cheese 1 c. Non-fat plain Greek yogurt 2 tsp. Vanilla extract 3 tbsp. Brown sugar (or brown sugar substitute) ½ c. Chopped pecans (toasted) Instructions: Wash the grapes and remove all the stems. You can half them or keep them whole. Using a mixer, beat together the light cream cheese, non-fat Greek yogurt, vanilla, and brown sugar until it is fully combined. Next, mix in the grapes to the cream cheese mixture. Finally, toast the chopped pecans and fold them into the dish. Reserve a few to garnish the top. Roasted Vegetables Ingredients: 2 c. Sweet potatoes, chopped 2 c. New potatoes, chopped 2 c. Broccoli florets 1 Zucchini, sliced and quartered 1 Yellow squash, sliced and quartered 1 Onion, chopped 2 tbsp. Olive oil 4 cloves Garlic, minced 1 1/2 tsp. Dried Italian seasoning Salt and pepper to taste Instructions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray cooking spray on sheet pan. Place chopped sweet potatoes, new potatoes, broccoli, zucchini, squash, and onion in a mixing bowl to toss with olive oil, chopped garlic, and seasonings. Spread in an even layer on the sheet pan, and place into oven to bake for 30 minutes, or until tender. Serve immediately. For information about the USM School of Kinesiology and Nutrition, visit


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