The Coast News Group

To Your Health

With Thanksgiving dinner just around the corner, now is the time to start planning your holiday menu in order to ensure you eat smart this holiday season. What you choose and how you prepare your meals could mean your jeans fitting a little tighter than you prefer. With the average American gaining between 3 to 5 pounds or more during the winter holiday season, cooking a healthier meal, without losing the taste or texture, is an easy option for healthy weight maintenance.
The centerpiece of contemporary Thanksgiving in the United States is a gigantic meal, generally centered around a large roasted turkey and other “foods of the land.” According to tradition, the majority of the dishes in the traditional American version of Thanksgiving Dinner are derived from Native American foods, such as corn, beans, cranberries, blueberries and more. Butter, sugar and other high calorie and high fat additives likely came along much later than when the Pilgrims first landed on Plymouth Rock. Cooking or preparing foods with lower fat content is a good way to eat and taste the flavors of the season without the extra calories. For example, prepare holiday dips with low-fat sour cream or nonfat yogurt. Use egg substitutes in place of whole eggs. In recipes, try evaporated skim milk instead of whole milk. Use low-sodium, fat free chicken broth in place of butter in mashed potatoes to lighten fat content. Top casseroles with almonds, a food high in protein, instead of fried onion rings, a food high in fat. Use whole wheat bread in the preparation of stuffing. All of the ways in which we cut calories and fat during other times of the year are equally, if not more important, during the holidays when “abundance” is all around us.
Combining fitness with nutrition is essential during this busy time of year, and the first step to maintaining healthy holiday eating habits during the season is to set a goal, either for weight loss or weight maintenance. Weigh yourself once or twice a week to keep your weight in check. The goal is no New Year’s surprises! Next, develop an eating plan for each special situation that will support your goal. Taking control, by increasing your activity levels or deciding how you will “treat yourself” at a party before you get there, can support the goals for which you have already set.
Tips to Help You Eat Less
Holiday logic tells us to starve ourselves before a party so that we can “eat whatever we want.” To the contrary, this is one of the most weight-gaining forms of enjoying holiday cheer. The longer we go without eating, the more we will eat when we sit down for a meal. Eating smaller portions of a variety of foods will help you feel more satisfied, and enjoying the buffet table just once will ensure that you are getting a taste without overeating. Fill up on fruits, veggies and grain foods and limit cookies, cakes and other holiday treats. If you must have something, say a special holiday cookie that is only made during the season, then eat and enjoy it! Decide which foods you can and cannot live without, and skip those that you can.
Decide whether you will enjoy a glass of wine or dessert at your parties, but try to avoid consuming both. Each are high in calories and will be the quickest — and least nutritious — way to consuming your calories allotted for that meal. Drink water or low-calorie spritzers between alcoholic beverages to spare your body from the extra calories and sugars inherent in most cocktails. And don’t consume alcohol and drive. If you are attending a holiday happy hour, with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres being served, eat a small, healthy meal before the party to prevent overeating. Eat slowly and savor all of the flavors of the holidays. This will give your stomach time to tell your brain that you are full.
And if you plan to give yourself a holiday gift, invest in a pedometer before the holidays start. Wear it daily to measure your steps. If your pedometer measures 5,000 steps on your first day, set a goal of 6,000 steps for the second day. Additional steps can come from an organized walk or run on the beach with friends, but also from shopping, cleaning and decorating for the holidays! Now that’s a win-win!