‘Packed with vitamins and minerals:’ Enjoy holiday foods the healthy way

MILWAUKEE -- We are just one week away from Thanksgiving -- and that means it's likely the last week that many of us will be sticking to our diets. Amy Keating, food safety and testing program leader at Consumer Reports, joins FOX6 WakeUp with advice on how to enjoy holiday foods the healthy way.

Your first tip for eating healthier this holiday season is to stock the fridge. What should we fill it with, and why?

It`s true that the holiday season and tempting treats go hand in hand, but you won`t be faced with them every day. And If you have plenty of healthy ingredients and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruit and you`ll have an easier time making your meals extra-healthy. That will help offset those gingerbread cookies or that slice of pumpkin pie.

Speaking of vegetables, you say that`s the first thing we should start with at meal time. Why is that a good strategy?

You'll fill up on foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals and lower in calories, leaving less room for less unhealthy stuff. It doesn`t need to be boring, though. For instance, if dinner is at your house, try making the first course a festive seasonal salad, with goodies like pomegranate seeds, clementines, toasted nuts, and candied citrus peels mixed in with the leafy greens.

It's also a great idea to stay hydrated, right?

It is a good idea to sip a glass of water before you have a cocktail or eat anything. And if you do drink alcohol, sip a glass of seltzer between each one. That will keep you hydrated and slow your intake. Or try a spritzer: Mix half red or white wine and half seltzer or club soda in a glass. Add a slice of lime and you have a festive drink with half the calories and alcohol.

Many holiday meals are served buffet style. The typical advice is to try a little bit of everything. Why might that be the wrong approach?

There's some research that shows this can leave you feeling less satisfied. When you`re exposed to too many different flavors in a meal, you don`t feel as full as quickly, and you eat more. My tactic is to choose two or three favorite foods, especially those I don`t get to enjoy year-round. Food is so much a part of the season; this way the meal feels special and I don`t feel as though I`m missing out.

A lot of folks like to skip the early meals the day of big holiday dinner. Why is fasting a recipe for failure?

This approach has a high probability of backfiring; people often end up overeating later. Instead, opt for a sensible morning meal—say, oatmeal, yogurt, and a piece of fruit and and if your celebration is in the evening, eat a light lunch midday. The last thing you want is to show up to dinner starving.

Lastly, if you really enjoy desert, what`s one thing you can do that will help you enjoy it even more?

Take a walk between dinner and dessert. For some families (mine included), this is a holiday tradition. It`s a nice way to bond with relatives and helps you sneak in some activity. But it also does more. It takes some time for the brain to recognize how much you`ve eaten. If you go straight from the meal to dessert, you may not realize how full you actually are—and you`ll probably enjoy dessert more if you aren`t completely stuffed.