Counting holiday calories not easy

Holidays are the time to celebrate with family and friends. Of course most celebrations center on meals and refreshments.

So, how do you maintain your healthy diet standards without appearing to be rude to your host?

One holiday meal could have as many as 5,000 calories. One pound is 3,500 calories. This means a person can gain approximately one and a half pounds per meal. If the typical person ate only one holiday meal, weight control could be maintained by exercise.

The problem is most people do not eat just one holiday dinner. Celebrations at work, at church, with immediate family, with extended family and with friends can cause a person to eat five or more mega-meals in one week.

Plus, people tend to snack and eat leftovers between meals. Exercise is usually held to a minimum because people are sitting so much instead of moving around.

Overeating and a lack of exercise can easily lead to a five-pound weight gain in less than one week.

Have a plan of action before the holiday.

First, remember to drink several glasses of water before a meal or party. The water will give you a sense of fullness and help you to resist the temptation to overeat.

Second, limit your portion size. Eat half the serving size, and eliminate half the calories.

Third, try to do something physical while you have a crowd gathered. A game of tag football in the backyard before watching the game could burn off a few calories. A walk or a bicycle ride around the neighborhood could add activity to the day.

For persons on restricted diets watching calories may not be their major concern.

Holidays present a host of problems for gracefully declining certain foods. It is important for people on specialized diets to stick to the regimen set forth by their health care provider.

One of the best ways to maintain control in their situation is to carry a dish that they can eat and greatly restrict portion sizes of other foods.

Jennifer Dutton is a regional extension agent specializing in nutrition, diet and health for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.