Healthy eating during the holidays; it’s possible

  • Published
  • By Monica Mendoza
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
Tis' the season for rich creamy foods, divine desserts and weight gain. All the holiday goodies and fabulous food can add up to inches on the waistline.

But, 21st Space Wing Health and Wellness Center experts say it doesn't have to be so. Airmen, whether single or preparing dinner for a family, can serve healthy food that tastes great. It's all part of the new Air Force culture of fitness, the idea that Airmen can be healthy year-round, not just before a physical fitness test.

Beginning in January, Airmen will take physical fitness tests twice a year. In July, Airmen will test using more rigorous standards. The new Air Force fitness program was developed to create a culture of physical fitness year-round to include proper aerobic conditioning, strength and flexibility training and healthy eating.

"Desire, diet, drive and direction are all important components to ensure our Airmen are fit to fight, fit for life," said Cindy White, 21st Space Wing chief of health promotion. "The HAWC is here to offer guidance to help Team Pete achieve that."

The problem is people don't want to change habits until something has gone wrong, said Julie Anderson, registered dietitian at the HAWC.

Instead, she said, Airmen should make eating changes now and they do not have to be drastic.

"Take small steps rather than taking one giant leap," Ms. Anderson said.

The holiday season is a great time to start. A rule of thumb for daily calorie intake is 1,500 calories for a woman and 1,800 for a man. However, at one holiday party, a person typically consumes 4,500 calories. One pound is 3,500 calories. That means five parties could add up to more than five pounds of weight gain, Ms. Anderson said.

But, she's no scrooge.

"You should enjoy your food," she said. "Eat what you enjoy."

At the party, try the plate method, she said. Using a nine-inch plate, fill half of the plate with fruits and vegetables; one quarter of the plate should be lean meat protein and one quarter of the plate should be grains or starches, like rice or pasta. The protein portion - meat or fish - should be the size of your palm.

"This is a nice easy way to measure portions," Ms. Anderson said.

Whether making the meal or grazing at the buffet table, choose meals full of color - green, orange and red, she said.

"Each color in vegetables has a different protective nature," she said.

Red fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that reduce the risk of prostate cancer and lower blood pressure. Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that reduce age-related macular degeneration and the risk of prostate cancer, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, fight harmful free radicals, and promote collagen formation and healthy joints. Green fruits and vegetables have nutrients that reduce cancer risks, normalize digestion, and lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.

Healthy food does not have to be bland, Ms. Anderson said. Imagine a holiday table of spinach, pear and gorgonzola salad with balsamic vinaigrette followed by stuffed roast turkey with autumn roasted vegetables, and roasted butternut squash salad with pomegranate molasses. And for dessert, imagine pumpkin angel food cake with ginger filling. Each month, Ms. Anderson leads Airmen and their family members through a cooking demonstration. Her latest demonstration featured the above holiday recipes.

At the cooking demos, Ms. Anderson shares tips on how to substitute healthier alternatives, like applesauce instead of syrup or oil, when baking. Recipes and substitution guides are available at the HAWC.

The next Healthy Cooking demonstration is 6 p.m. Jan. 7 at the HAWC, Building 560 and features tips on how to cook healthy meals with your children. For details call 556-4292.