Living Columns & Blogs

Helping hands: Tips for healthier holiday choices

We are now in the throes of the winter season, most of us longing for the comforts of rich foods and celebrating the holiday season with an indulgence like no tomorrow. Resolutions of gym memberships and intense workouts will be planned for the New Year, as department stores re-format their displays, knowing human nature well enough to place the exercise clothing at the front of their stores.

Do not despair, there is hope — with a few simple guidelines you too can make healthier choices and minimize holiday weight gain:

Avoid drinking your calories. Consider replacing high-caloric drinks with water or herbal teas. Drinking calories is easy to do without quenching our thirst and simultaneously displacing important and much needed nutrients.

Downsize your plate. Smaller plates make for smaller portions by tricking the eyes and avoiding “portion distortion.” Use MyPlate ( guidelines. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, a fourth of your plate lean protein and a fourth of your plate healthy, unprocessed grains.

A body in motion stays in motion. Incorporate physical activity into everyday life by doing things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away and choosing active hobbies and fun games with your family.

Be a mindful eater. Take the time to chew your food well. Avoid snacking in the car or in front of the TV or computer, where we tend to overeat without truly savoring our food.

Celebrate wisely. When heading out to a party, try to fill up on healthy snacks at home first. Once at the party, take smaller portions and focus on healthier choices. Try to keep your distance from the snack table with distractions like good conversation with other guests.

Keep it real. Realistic goals may take more time and patience but are more attainable and longer lasting. Setbacks are a time rethink your strategy, forgive yourself and continue to move forward.

Those are just a few of the practical tips shared during our Nutrition Links classes.

Since 1969, Nutrition Links, a federally funded program administered in our state by Penn State Extension, provides free nutrition education to limited-resource families and youth within Centre County. A series of lessons that include Food Safety, Portion Distortion, Reading the Nutrition Facts Label, Making Smart Drink Choices and more are offered. Each class provides education, hands-on cooking instruction, food tasting and practical ways to plan meals ahead to save time, money, calories and eliminate dinnertime stress.

For more information, visit

Leoni Georgiou is nutrition education adviser for Nutrition Links — Penn State Extension.