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Healthy Diets - for Weight Loss and Improved Health!

Feast Days
by carolyn classick-kohn,ms,rd

Perhaps more than any other time, joyful holidays include a lot of gathering and along with it, great food. Feast days come at different times for different cultures and religions, but except for those days that involve religious fasting as a ritual, special days call for special foods around the world. These are the days when we bring out our feast foods, and usually they include special drinks (with and without alcohol), sweet desserts, special meats, salty foods, and higher fat ingredients. Traditionally, it's a time to enjoy such indulgence without guilt or remorse, but how do you do that while you are trying to follow a weight reduction plan, or a diet that involves modifying your fat or carbohydrate intake because of health reasons? 

Certainly, you don't want all your efforts to make changes in the way you eat, and in the way you respond to food to go out the window because of one or two days, or even a week of feasting. And, it doesn't have to.

About Feasting
Feasting is just that: a special day that calls for special foods. In days when food was not as plentiful and had to be hunted, the special feast days may have involved a time of harvest, or a time of plenty of meat or fish to eat. The feast days probably did not contribute to permanent weight gain because after the feasting was over, it was back to normal, everyday food, and in some cases, even famine until the next time of plenty. Unfortunately, now that food is plentiful every day in most industrialized countries, every day is a feast day! When you look at populations of people who tend to have a lot of obesity (the U.S., some European countries, especially), their daily diet contains a lot of fat, salt, sugar and a good supply of alcohol. The problem, then, is not holiday feasting, but the everyday food choices we make that contribute to weight gain.
 

Enjoy Your Feasting
Working on making every day a regular day of eating healthier low fat, nutritious foods allows you to completely enjoy the holiday foods without gaining a lot of weight. Wouldn't it be great to feel good about eating along with everyone else, enjoying the company of others and not feeling "left out" or different?

If you are following the goals of a healthy eating style and following your plan, you know that there are specific goals for eating certain foods. The most important examples of these are limiting regular cheeses and high fat red meats to once a week or less, high fat desserts to once a month or less, avoiding higher fat dairy products, and keeping the oils, butters, and other fats within healthy guidelines.  These are all traditional feast foods, not daily eating fare. (If you use these criteria, a typical fast food meal is a "feast" of overindulgence!) If you have been following your goals, and keeping your total food intake within the recommendations provided for your weight needs, you should do just fine if you have a few days of these special feast foods. Your daily efforts will help balance out the occasional feast.

 

How Do You Feast?
So, feasting involves a lot of the foods prepared in ways that are higher in calories and fat, and typically there's a lot of it. Feasting doesn't have to involve overeating, however. Choosing to enjoy special foods can be done without overdoing it, here's how:

  • Eat normal portions of most foods.

  • Eat smaller portions of the foods especially high in fat and calories, and be choosy.

  • Even on feast days, try to eat the daily amount of vegetables and fruits.

  • Avoid eating leftovers of "feast foods" or the days following will turn into a week-long feast!

  • Review the holiday strategies in the member's section from a few week's ago for some good ideas.

Remember, all foods can be a part of a healthy diet that you can follow for life. Celebrating with food is a wonderful ritual that we should all be able to enjoy without detriment to our health. Do not eat as though it is the last feast day of your life, and you will live long enough to have many more!