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Expert Alert

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U expert offers tips on controlling holiday eating

November 21, 2011

The holiday season is right around the corner, and for many Americans, this signals the start of multiple family gatherings centered around tables of food, endless holiday parties, and more peanut brittle than can be imagined.

And while the upcoming five weeks may provide an environment for us to overconsume, it is possible to healthfully navigate the holiday season. A University of Minnesota expert who can offer tips for controlling holiday eating is:

Jamie Stang, associate professor in the School of Public Health

One of the biggest issues in the United States—and not just during the holiday season—is something experts call portion distortion. When food smells good and looks great, we’re more likely to take too much, and because we do that, we feel obligated to finish all of it.

According to Stang, one way to help make healthy choices this holiday season—and all year round—is being mindful of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines.

“When you look at your plate, about half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, and the other half can be made of things like turkey, stuffing, and potatoes,” says Stang. “Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, and those help fill you up more.”

MyPlate also offers a food tracker—which gives a complete breakdown for food groups and nutrients consumed—and physical activity tracker. When people exercise, they feel more in control of their bodies and are more conscious of what is put into it. Exercising may also may boost one’s metabolism, so going on a walk before a meal may be beneficial.

In addition to using online resources, Stang recommends monitoring beverage consumption. A couple of glasses of apple cider, beer, or wine can easily add up to a few hundred calories. So being mindful of the calories you’re drinking will also help control consumption.

But the most important tip Stang offers?

“Enjoy your food,” she says. “Don’t deny yourself holiday treats during the season. Instead, take smaller portions and eat slowly. Striking that balance will help you go a long ways.”

Stang is available for media interviews Monday, Nov. 21, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and on Tuesday, Nov. 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. To schedule an interview, contact Emily Jensen, (612) 624-9163,, or Kelly O’Connor, (612) 624-5680,

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit Views expressed by experts do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: Academic Health Center

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