Holiday foods don’t have to be bad

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 4, 2010

NATCHEZ — The Fourth of July festivities don’t have to be torture on the waistline.

While barbecue sauce drenched ribs and potato salad are staples on the menu, there are still plenty of ways for those on stricter diets to enjoy the day, said Jewel Causey, registered dietician and certified diabetes educator at Natchez Regional Medical Center.

Causey said one of the best ways you can avoid the holiday binge is to keep the meal schedule as normal as possible. She said it is important to not skip meals, even on holidays.

“When you overeat calories and can’t use them in the next few hours, your body has to store them as fat,” she said. “If you ate 1,000 calories but only burned off 300 then the other 700 will be stored as fat and you will know that the next day.”

Causey said since the stomach is only the size of a fist, it is better to eat several smaller meals than to eat one or two large meals.

“Our bodies are made to run better if you just feed it a little fuel all day long,” she said.

But that fuel doesn’t have to tasteless to be considered healthy. Instead, Causey said it is key that dieters make sure the food that is good for them is just as appealing as the less healthy options on the table.

“You need to have chicken and fish on the grill and not just ribs,” she said. “Or having vegetable kabobs off the grill is something really good and really special that you can have and you won’t feel like you are missing out.”

Karry Hosford, co-owner of High Cotton in downtown Natchez, said one area people always struggle with during holiday eating is snacking.

“Everyone brings something and it is so easy to find yourself constantly snacking,” she said. “If you are on a diet, its good to bring your own snacks so you know there will be something that you can eat without the guilt.”

Hosford said good snacks include fresh fruits and anything that is pickled, like picked vegetables instead of chips.

“You don’t want to get caught without a plan,” she said.

Causey said walking into a food-filled party without a plan is the biggest mistake someone on a diet or with diet restrictions can make, because it is so easy to get overwhelmed.

“Portion size is often forgotten,” she said. “If you are going to have that dessert that you love, make sure it is a small piece and that you don’t eat it right after your meal.

“Give your body some time to process what you just ate before giving it something else.”

Another tip that is easily overlooked, Causey said, is counting the calories in beverages.

She said in the heat, it is important to stay hydrated, but Causey suggested drinking water instead of alcoholic or carbonated beverages.

“People forget all the time to count the liquid calories,” she said.

Hosford said one item that is tasty and a better option than sugar-filled drinks is a sugar-free lemonade.

“I really love the Crystal Light lemonades,” she said. “And they are sugar free so they are refreshing and better for you.”

Causey said when planning for the Fourth of July, focusing on the real meaning of the holiday and not just the food is the best way to make sure dieters stay on track.

“The Fourth of July is about freedom, and you don’t want to chain yourself down with more pounds,” she said.

“We want to be free of all that. It’s not a day to eat and drink everything you want. It’s a day to enjoy being with family and friends and celebrating America.”