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How to eat healthy during the holidays with no time to spare

The holidays are once again upon us, and this can mean grabbing food on the go and maybe not making the best choices when it comes to eating.

If we take some time to plan, we can still eat healthy during the holidays. If we start by planning a menu, we can examine our family’s schedule that week to determine how much time is actually available to prepare a meal.

You don’t want to choose recipes that need hours of cooking when you only have 15 minutes. Involve your family in this process by letting each member pick out a meal. Think about your cooking style. Are you a “from scratch” cook, or do you like convenience items? Neither is right or wrong, but knowing yourself is the key to success in the kitchen.

Plan your trip to the grocery store. Make a list based on the menu you prepared. Keep an eye out for fresh fruits and vegetables on special for a healthy snack. Purchase salad ingredients like lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumber, baby carrots, and a light vinaigrette for a quick dose of vitamins to accompany your meal. Keep your family’s health in mind when purchasing breakfast and lunchbox items and snacks. If you only keep good-for-you foods in the house, your family will have more opportunities to eat healthy.

Plan for the unexpected. Sometimes plans fall through, situations change, or you just don’t feel like cooking. Here are a few suggestions for handling the unexpected.

— Grab a rotisserie chicken on the way home. Serve with salad and whole grain bread.

— Keep prepared pizza crusts on hand. Get the kids in the kitchen to assemble a healthy vegetable pizza and have fruit for dessert.

— Bring out the can opener for a soup and sandwich night. Try to choose low-fat and low-sodium soups.

— Keep a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator. Just be sure you read labels for prepared items like sauces and seasoning mixes. Basics to keep on hand include whole grain starches, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy items, and lean meats.

— Let’s keep those fruits and vegetables around for the holidays to help maintain our nutrition. A little planning can go a long way, and a backup plan can also come in handy. Let’s stay healthy for the holidays!

Patty Hudek is the Mississippi State University extension service agent for Lafayette County.