Enjoy holiday eating, just strive to maintain weight

When it comes to the holidays, Meirav Eizikson said there’s no dieting allowed.

“Absolutely not,” said Eizikson of Myrtle Beach. “I eat all I want.”

Eizikson said while she doesn’t set limits on eating anymore, she did go on a diet during the holidays five years ago. She said she still had success, despite a penchant for sufganiyot, special Hanukkah doughnuts.

“A lot of the food is good for you, but it’s still fattening,” she said. “When I was on the diet, I’d eat just like half a pita. I’d just eat half of what I wanted.”

Many people aren’t that disciplined and tend to go crazy over holiday food, said Janet Carter, outpatient dietitian and Heart Health program manager at the Medical University of South Carolina, while those who try to limit their goodies stress out at a time when they should be feeling merry.

“Give it a break and have fun,” said Carter, who said there is plenty of time for dieting after the new year begins. “Just try not to gain.”

Carter said it doesn’t take magic to hold the line, and there are painless ways to indulge and yet maintain weight while celebrating the season. She said most of those involve paying attention and planning ahead for holiday gatherings.

“For example, people don’t realize how many calories alcohol has,” she said. “They think of it as a free thing, but there are 75 calories in a standard glass of wine, and that’s not a huge amount.”

Instead of eating and drinking everything every day of the season, Carter suggested picking a splurge day every week – “make it a holiday, not a holiweek.” She said if there are multiple parties to attend, pick a few for the splurge and go light at the others.

Donna Zeglin of Myrtle Beach said she actually doesn’t crave anything special at the holidays but knows she eats more at parties if she doesn’t use a plate. She said using the small cocktail plates that only hold a few items helps keep eating under control, but her biggest secret is just having fun with friends.

“The last two parties I went to, I hardly ate anything,” Zeglin said. “You can’t eat if you’re busy socializing.”

Carter said gatherings can be made healthier by using substitutions, such as low-fat sour cream, in recipes and by avoiding unhealthy trends, such as deep-frying a turkey when it can be just as or more delicious when baked in the oven. She said most parties will feature at least one vegetable dish, and if guests are contributing, go BYO – bring your own.

“That’s what I do, bring my own low-calorie goodies,” she said. “I always bring the veggie tray, and I get teased about it, but guess what – it always gets eaten by the end of the night.”

Carter’s other tips to stay on track include: