The holidays are here again and that means food, food, and more food. Holiday parties and seasonal cheer often present an overload of eating, and attending these feasts can be a challenge because there is great temptation to sample luscious and sinful treats. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pass up that onion dip or fruitcake this holiday season.
You can still have a great time, as long as you’re aware of what you eat. The following suggestions will help you make healthy eating decisions while cooking and celebrating this festive month.
Scary But True
The average American typically gains between 7 and 10 pounds during the holidays. If you want to be anything but average, take a different track this holiday season.
Where Does It Come From?
To gain that weight, you need to consume an extra 24,500 to 35,000 calories. Sounds impossible? It’s not. Take a look at how much extra food a person would need to eat to gain 7 pounds in five weeks:
- 36 pieces of chocolate candy = 2,200 calories
- 10 sugar cookies = 900 calories
- 2 pounds of nuts = 2,400 calories
- 10 glasses of wine = 700 calories
- 1 quart of eggnog = 1,200 calories
- 2 pounds of prime rib (32 ounces) = 3,100 calories
- 1 pound of turkey (16 ounces) = 800 calories
- 1 loaf of French bread and butter = 1,200 calories
- 1 quart of mashed potatoes and gravy = 1,200 calories
- 1 quart of stuffing = 1,000 calories
- 2 quarts of ice cream = 3,200 calories
- 2 cheesecakes = 3,100 calories
- 2 pumpkin pies = 3,500 calories
Many Americans consume these extra calories on top of their regular diets, which results in weight gain. Of course, lack of physical activity is also a factor. If you stop exercising during the holidays, you’ll burn fewer calories and store more of them as fat.
Healthy Holiday Eating
Rather than fall into old habits of holiday eating, train yourself to enjoy the holidays without making food the primary attraction. Grant yourself permission to enjoy some festive goodies, but don’t overdo it.
Try these strategies for keeping your holiday eating in check:
- Limit the amount of foods you eat.
- Only eat special foods at holiday meals, such as stuffing, potato pancakes, ambrosia, or pumpkin pie. Don’t waste calories on foods you can eat any time, such as rolls, baked potatoes, and cheese and crackers.
- Remove tempting foods from your reach.
- Try to get some exercise, even if it’s just a few minutes of activity each day.
- Avoid going back for seconds.
- Drink a large glass of water before parties and meals to curb your appetite.
- Fill up on fresh fruits and vegetables (without the high-fat sauces and dips).
- Choose low-fat items such as turkey, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Have smaller portions of high-fat foods such as stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.
- Learn to modify your favorite family recipes to make them lower in fat (refer to next page to see how to do this).
- Watch your drinking. Alcohol stimulates your appetite, decreases willpower and is high in calories.
- Avoid decorating your house or office with candy and cookies.
- At work, limit yourself to one office treat per day, such as one piece of candy or cake.
- Chew gum while you’re cooking to keep from snacking.
- Enjoy a chocolate candy or have some prime rib, but choose reasonable portions. A good gauge is 3 ounces of protein, which is about the size of a deck of cards or a computer mouse.
There are plenty more tips on keeping your ideal weight intact.