UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – The holiday season is upon us, which means social gatherings, and with social gatherings comes lots of delicious food. If you’re looking to stay on track with your diet or just hoping to make more conscious choices during this time of the year, Beth Cook, a certified diabetes care and education specialist at Aspirus Health, shares some tips for holiday eating.

“If you’re going to a party you don’t want to starve yourself ahead of time in anticipation for the food that you’re going to be eating,” said Cook. “So don’t set yourself up to overindulge. This is the holidays go with an open mind and allow yourself to have those foods in moderation. You may want to consider moving socialization away from the buffet tables and appetizer trays. This can help you avoid any kind of unconscious eating or nibbling. When we’re looking at alcohol consumption it’s good to get you hydrated beforehand so start drinking some water, some carbonated water before hand and certainly if you’re going to drink, the recommendation for females is one to two drinks a day and men two to three [drinks a day].

“We want to manage our stress during the holidays. Those of us who may eat when we’re stressed this can be an even more enhanced time of year of over consumption. So, taking a few deep breaths, sticking our head outside, getting some fresh air, going for a walk 10-15 minutes can make a dramatic impact on our stress levels. Also, when you’re at the party, take a pause before you’re going for that second serving. Often times it takes a while for our stomach to communicate to our brain that we’re full. So, take a few deep breaths, sit for a while, and decide if you really want to go for that second helping.”

Cook goes on to share some baking and cooking alternatives for traditional holiday dishes and desserts.

“For people who are watching their diabetes or managing their blood sugars or people who want to watch their blood pressure for heart health, even avoid that weight gain in the holidays. A few changes to your recipes can make a significant difference. So, for instance if you have your mashed potatoes. instead of using butter and sour cream, try using some low sodium chicken broth. For muffins or quick breads, instead of using the oil or the butter, you could replace the fat by adding apple sauce, white cannellini beans, or great northern beans or even a prune puree and that would reduce the fat amount.

“For dips, instead of using sour cream and cream cheese, trying using plain Greek yogurt. This is a good source of protein and calcium. Try chopping up some nuts and putting this on your vegetable dishes or casseroles and even baked goods. So chopped almonds, chopped nuts, these are heart healthy fats and they’re high in fiber. Another option is reducing the sugar in our baked goods and desserts. Many recipes can be cut in a third or even a half of sugar and they still taste very good. You can also add more flavor with cardamum, or cinnamon or vanilla. Another alternative would be to use Splenda, which is an artificial sweetener and is very good for baked foods.”