Food for Thought: Start new holiday traditions with love

By Nancy Schuster, Frontier Extension Agent

Food for ThoughtAs I write this column it’s almost Thanksgiving and just days until Christmas! Many of you have been making lists of “things to do” before the holidays, maybe even holiday celebration meals and grocery store lists of what to buy. While you are making your lists, and checking them twice; I’d like to add five more suggestions to those lists.

Consider giving your family the gift of good health! This year, don’t use the holidays as an excuse for high-fat, high-calorie feasting. Try some of these subtle suggestions.

  • Control portion size by using your family’s heirloom china. Research done by the Cornell Food and Brand lab reminds us than until 1960, dinner plates were nine inches in diameter. Plate designers have increased dinner plate sizes to as much as 12 to 14 inches today. Cornell’s research also shows we eat less when we use smaller plates and taller thin glasses.
  • Serve higher calorie vegetables like mashed potatoes in small serving bowls with smaller serving spoons. Save the larger dishes for those vitamin packed lower carbohydrate vegetables like asparagus or broccoli.
  • Lead by example! Give healthful gifts from your kitchen made with healthful ingredients. Bake bread that features hearty whole grains, or a box of fruit rather than a box of candy. Tie a bow around a bag of mixed nuts, not the cookies.
  • Lighten up. In your favorite recipe try using fat-free evaporated skim milk instead of cream in custard pies and sauces. Boost flavor in casseroles with spices and seasonings rather than butter or salt. Bake foods rather than frying them.
  • Make fruit the starring role. Serve colorful chunks of fresh fruit like pineapple, mango, kiwi, and red grapes on skewers. Offer nibbles of dates and grapes rather than cheese and crackers.
  • While going through a holiday buffet, start with the healthier foods first. The first foods we see at a buffet make up 68 percent of the food on our plate. Adults eat 92 percent of the food on their plate.

Many of these tips come from research done by the Food and Name Brand Lab at Cornell University by Dr. Brian Wansink. Wansink has been called the Sherlock Holmes of food. Some of his research can be found in the book he wrote, “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think”. The book is in paperback and is printed by Bantam Books, 2010. It is a funny, interesting read and explains why we eat what we eat! Try reserving it from the library loan system.


schustersmNancy Schuster is a Frontier Extension District family and consumer science agent whose responsibilities include providing information about food safety, nutrition, food science and food preparation. She is based in the Garnett office of the Frontier Extension District and can be reached at 785-448-6826 or email [email protected].

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