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Local fitness experts share tips for healthful holiday eating

WNY Refresh asked Dan LiBurd, strength and conditioning assistant and nutritionist with the Buffalo Bills, and Dwayne Brinson, owner of FitNation fitness center in Amherst, to share their holiday nutrition tips. Here’s what they advise:

DAN LIBURD: AVOID PDAS

I don’t mean your Personal Digital Assistants, although you might do well to watch your use of those as well. PDAS is an acronym for processed foods, vitamin D deficiency, alcohol excess and sporadic sleep. Finding a solution to these obstacles can help make your road toward holiday health success more effective.

1. Limit processed foods: Watch your calorie intake and be mindful of the source of your calories. Avoid products with long ingredient lists that are high in sugar, low in fiber and have minimal vitamins and nutrients. Instead focus on whole foods such organic fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources and whole grains. Processed foods take less energy to digest and absorb compared to whole foods. These foods can have a negative impact to your blood sugar profile and increase your risk for diabetes.

2. Vitamin D is key: Vitamin D happens to be one of the most important nutrients for our bodies. It also happens to be one of the most deficient nutrients in individuals living in the North as well as those with darker skin. It is estimated that 30 percent to 80 percent of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient. Researchers have demonstrated that individuals with low levels of vitamin D are at risk for increased risk of loss of muscle strength and mass, greater risk for cancer, low immune system function and higher blood pressure, and can develop neurological disorders as well as diabetes.

3. Avoid excessive alcohol: Drinking more than moderate levels – one to two drinks per day – can increase body fat, damage the liver, negatively impact nutrient intake and shrink muscle tissue.

4. Limit sporadic sleep: In a 2005 study, researchers demonstrated that people ages 32 to 49 who sleep fewer than seven hours each night are significantly more likely to be obese. In addition, several studies suggest that people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night gain almost twice as much weight over a six-year period as people who sleep seven to eight hours per night.

DWAYNE BRINSON: ALTERNATIVE HOLIDAY

1. Use less prepared seasoning: This reduces sodium/salt intake, which in turn reduces water retention in the body as well as reducing the chances of unwanted holiday bloating. This also will assist in keeping that unhealthy high blood pressure to a minimum. Instead, purchase your flavorings and garnishments fresh from your local grocery store in the produce section and the flavor will still be there.

2. Substitute for white flour: Everyone loves a good macaroni and cheese. Instead of using your typical egg noodles, substitute them for whole-wheat or gluten-free macaroni. This will save you calories without sacrificing taste.

3. Steam your veggies: Steaming preserves the water-soluble vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need, giving us a healthy holiday vegetable and side dish. Don’t boil them! This reduces those vitamins and nutrients we need.

4. Water is ideal: While with friends and family celebrating the season, you can be easily tempted to drink items high in fat, sugar and calories. Sugary drinks such as soda pop, sweet wines and juices, can be the determining factor of weight gain this holiday. Substitute them for water. This will not only keep you hydrated but decrease the temptation for sweets. Cold water also increases your metabolism, which makes it easier for you to lose weight or keep it off.

5. Smart desserts: Eat foods with natural sugars, such as your favorite fruits, in place of pies, cakes, cookies, tarts and the sort. Most fruits are high in nutrients and benefit your overall health as opposed to the processed sweets that assist in unwanted weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.

6. Baking substitutes: Utilize natural sweeteners such as raw honey, palm sugar and cinnamon in place of artificial (refined) sugars and sweeteners. Sugars can depress your immune system, increase your risk of diabetes and many cancers, and cause a cycle of intense highs and lows where your blood sugars and neurotransmitters will be out of balance.

On the Web: Read Dan LiBurd’s Independent Health and Buffalo Bills Health & Wellness Challenge tips at refresh.buffalonews.com; read a previous Refresh story about Dwayne Brinson at bit.ly/1yTw0W.