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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 18, 2003

UI Dietitian Offers Holiday Eating Tips

'Tis the season to be tempted -- by holiday parties and treats lurking around the office cooler. But suggestions from a University of Iowa Heart Care expert can help you cut down on calories or balance them with exercise during the holiday season.

There are several strategies for making your way around the buffet table at the office party or family gathering, said Amy Lukas, a registered and licensed dietitian with the UI outpatient program Cardiovascular Health, Assessment, Management and Prevention Service (CHAMPS).

You can better resist holiday fare with a little preparation. For one, do not skip meals earlier in the day.

"Have your lower-calorie meal earlier in the day, but don't starve yourself because then you're bound to overdo it at the party," Lukas said.

Also, consider the connection between what you wear and what you eat.

"You can wear clothes that are close-fitting so that when you eat enough you feel it -- and stop," Lukas said. However, be sure not to wear clothes that are uncomfortably tight, which could cause significant discomfort or even fainting.

When preparing your own contribution for a potluck, consider making eye-appealing fruit kabobs or try a low-fat recipe from a light-cooking magazine. Lukas also recommends checking out "Keep the Beat: Heart Healthy Recipes" at the Web site of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute:

And it may sound heretical but Lukas suggests making something with an ingredient you do not like. (Of course, that does not mean the dish should be unappealing to everyone.)

Once at the buffet, try these strategies:

--Avoid creamy and cheesy dishes; instead go for plain veggies with a touch of dip (and no double-dipping to avoid spreading germs).
--Use the smallest plate available or eat only what you can hold in a small napkin.
--Don't stand next to the snack table.
--If you choose to have alcohol, balance those drinks with diet pop or water in between.

Thinking small also is a way to avoid big calories, Lukas said. Choose candy that comes in small pieces, like Hershey's Kisses, and cut that hunk of fudge into small pieces.

"You shouldn't have to do without all holiday treats," Lukas said. "Try to eat rich foods in moderation, and if you know you'll be eating more than usual, be sure to stick with your current fitness plan or start one now."

Even small physical activities help burn those extra calories:

--Go for a walk at lunch.
--Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
--Play active games such as Twister at family gatherings.
--Walk to your mailbox instead of rolling down the car window as you go by.

"Little things can add up," Lukas said. "People may not realize that drinking a cappuccino for a treat once or twice a week instead of every day can make a difference."

People with existing conditions such as heart disease can try nuts and snacks that have unsaturated fats, Lukas advises. "Those will keep you satisfied but also are heart-healthy."

Last, do not be too hard on yourself and attempt to start a diet during the holidays. Your goal can be to maintain your weight. After all, New Year's resolutions are soon available to set your goal of losing weight.

For more information about the UI cardiovascular program CHAMPS, visit

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 5224-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660