2022 has come and gone. We made it through the holidays and now we’re in the New Year with resolutions and commitment to change. Many people gathered with loved ones over food. Some overdid it at the holiday gatherings by getting larger portions and second plates and are now resolving to make healthier choices in the New Year, which is also peppered with parties and celebrations, especially in January. To help find the balance between indulging and enjoying, registered dietitian Ashley Carter of Eatwell Exchange has healthy tips that can be easily applied. These tips will help you eat to satisfaction and not regret.

“The holidays are usually centered around food. It’s when you gather around a table and eat meals with family members you may not see often. Everyone likes to cook their favorite dishes but outside of that, we don’t have guidance on what to do. There are no parameters that teach us how to enjoy foods and maintain a healthy diet,” said Ashley Carter, co-founder of Eatwell Exchange

Eatwell Exchange is a nonprofit organization in Miami, Florida that teaches communities how to eat healthier with a focus on cultural foods. Carter and co-founder, Jasmine Westbrook RD, launched the organization in 2017. Since then, the duo has taught over 19,000 people how to maintain a healthy diet with foods throughout the African diaspora and prevent medical conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Every meal counts

Carter recommends eating at regular times and not skipping meals during the holiday season. People tend not to eat breakfast and lunch to eat extra when it is time for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve celebrations.. Eating at regular times avoids overeating, and it also keeps your blood sugar steady, which is crucial in managing diabetes.

The space of your plate

To help with portion control, Carter suggests using smaller plates for meals. She explains that we naturally put less food on small plates than on large ones.

“What do you do when you have a large plate? You fill it up. In my family, for Thanksgiving, we pulled out the special plates that were these big oval plates that have a gold brim. It was huge compared to the normal plates we would use,” Carter said. Use smaller plates.

Your meals can always be greener

Carter advises that having vegetables make up half of your plate is the next tip. More space for your veggies would leave a quarter for your protein (e.g., meat, chicken, or fish) and a quarter for your starch (e.g., rice or cornbread). More space for veggies means more variety you can add. The colors of your vegetables indicate how nutritious your meal is.

“You want to make sure that when you look down, you have a good variety of colors. You want to have green leafy vegetables because green veggies are usually non-starchy. The starchy vegetables are corn and potatoes, which can contribute to your blood sugar spiking. Green vegetables have a good variety of vitamins and minerals. They’re lighter, and you can eat more of those,” Carter said.

More plants, less meat

Reducing the amount of meat at the dinner table is a way to make things healthy for you and your guests. Carter encourages more plant-based options instead of meat substitutes to accomplish this. She elaborates that plant-based products have less saturated fat than animal products. Too much-saturated fat leads to high cholesterol and other cardiovascular diseases. Carter recommends mushrooms as an excellent alternative to meat. She uses that ingredient in most of her dishes today.  

“I love mushrooms. It’s a good source of vitamin D, and most people of African descent are deficient in vitamin D. It’s something that we need more of.,” Carter said.

Move with the crew

Adding activities that do not revolve around food is a tip Carter highly recommends. Activities like a family kickball game, a run/walk 5k, or anything that gets the crew moving can work. Carter explains that physical activity isn’t just to offset the holiday eating; it’s to give your loved ones something to look forward to besides the food. Planning physical activities during the holidays creates a generational shift of healthier habits.

“For me growing up, we all sat at the table and ate. After dinner, we would watch TV or talk. Now, what if we started getting into the habit of playing a kickball game? That would get all the generations you know, from grandma to grandbaby, outside running and playing. It’s not about winning the game; it’s just about restructuring our traditions to include healthier options for the family.” Carter said.

Carter’s healthy tips can effortlessly be put into motion during the holiday season and beyond. If you want this time of the year to be hearty and happy, these are your first steps toward that destination. More nutrition and health advice from Carter can be found at www.eatwellexchange.org.