As Barbadians gear up to celebrate the Yuletide season, the National Nutrition Centre is urging persons to remember this slogan during the festivities ??? Make this Holiday Season Great ??? Choose Vegetables and Fruit to Fill Half Your Plate!

Peer pressure may come in any form and at any time ??? especially at Christmas, but Nutrition Officer and head of the Centre, Dianne Broome, is encouraging Barbadians, young and old, to practise good nutrition at all times to avoid developing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes or hypertension.

???For children and adults who are overweight or obese and suffer from chronic non-communicable diseases which are affected by what they eat, and how much food they consume, it is essential to make wise choices especially at Christmas time,??? Ms. Broome cautioned.

She added that persons tended to gain a lot of weight between Independence, Christmas and the New Year because ???in Barbados, special occasions are often centred [around] food???.

???Perhaps it is all the tempting foods available during the holiday season (black cake, ham, sweet bread and puddings) or the pressure from family, friends and co-workers to overeat. Maybe it is the increased emotional eating, whether it be from holiday stress or holiday joy, or the freedom we feel to eat more and exercise less in anticipation for the ???new diet and exercise plan??? we???re going to start on January 1.

Regardless of the reasons, it is not necessary to avoid holiday festivities in an attempt to maintain your weight,??? she stated.

To this end, the Centre has developed some tips to help individuals make wiser choices during the holiday season.

When preparing desserts it is advised that persons add less fat such as butter, margarine, cream, cream cheese and oil, and substitute with lower fat options; use less sugar, jam, jelly, etc. than suggested in the recipe; try substituting plain white flour for whole grain flour.

Meat should be baked, grilled or boiled with little or no added butter, margarine or oil, and covered while cooking to retain moisture. It is also wise to skim the fat from meat drippings before adding to gravies. And, it is preferable to serve meat and poultry without the skin.

The Centre also suggests that main dishes and sides contain little or no fat or oil during preparation. Additionally, fat free or reduced fat foods should be substituted for high fat options – for example, milk, cheese, yogurt or mayonnaise.

In an effort to reduce salt intake, Ms. Broome suggested that Barbadians use herbs or low sodium seasonings when preparing meals. And, when shopping, persons should compare ???nutrition facts??? labels and select foods low in sodium. One useful tip is to replace the salt shaker at the dining table with an unsalted herb/seasoning blend.

Individuals should make sure they get enough fibre in their diets by incorporating a substantial amount of fruit and vegetables into meals. Foods rich in fibre include wholegrain bread, crackers and pasta, dried peas and beans and local provisions like breadfruit and sweet potato.

Seasonal beverages such as sorrel are consumed in abundance at this time of year. But, local nutritionists suggest using little or no sugar or only a quarter or half of the beverage, topping it up with ice, chilled or soda water. Persons should try making water more festive by opting for sparkling mineral water with added slices of lime or lemon.

There are also a few tricks that may be utilised to avoid overeating at parties and functions. For example, don???t try to ???make up??? for bad eating by skimping at breakfast or lunch. This sets you up for low energy, hunger, and poor food choices later on.

If you are going to an evening festivity, eat a balanced, light lunch, such as a mixed green salad with grilled chicken, and an apple. During the mid-afternoon period, it may also be helpful to eat a high-fibre snack, such as a handful of colourful veggies or some fruit and a few nuts, to avoid going to the party starving.

Moreover, take a good look at what is on the table, before piling a plate with food. While some holiday foods are essential, individuals might feel less strongly about others. Ms. Broome has advised persons to leave foods off of their plates which they feel less strongly about.
???That gives you more leeway to enjoy your ???must-haves,?????? she said.

Another strategy is to create a physical buffer zone that is a safe distance from the buffet. This prevents you from being within arm???s distance of those tempting dishes and discourages ???mindless munching???.

One last word of advice from the Centre is that persons focus more on the ???fun??? than the feast.

???Spend more time in conversation and enjoying the entertainment than worrying about what???s on your plate. Savour both the food you eat and the conversations you have with other guests; eating slowly will help you to be more aware of when you are satisfied and feeling full. Remember, good nutrition helps everyone to have more energy and live healthier lives,??? Ms. Broome advised.

So, as Barbadians and visitors enjoy this year???s festivities, they should keep these statistics in mind. The Barbados National Registry (BNR) in its 2010 Report stated that there were 584 recorded stroke events that year and females accounted for 55 per cent of this number.

The most common risk factors for hospital-admitted stroke patients were hypertension (86 per cent) and diabetes (53 per cent).

And, as you reach for that rich piece of black cake or those slices of ham, take into account that the BNR also reported that three-quarters of all patients hospitalised with acute Myocardial Infarction (sudden deprivation of the blood supply to the heart muscle) in 2010 also had hypertension (74 per cent). Half of these were obese (52 per cent) or had diabetes (46 per cent) – another reason to pause before imbibing alcoholic beverages.

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