It's the most wonderful time of the year. Time for gathering with friends and family, snuggling close to the fire and gaining weight. The typical American packs on 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. This added weight is not only a burden but carries health risks. It can also take an awfully long time to shed in the months that follow. That's why it's best to approach the holiday eating season with a plan. It all starts with Thanksgiving.
Often Thanksgiving is the start of 30 or more days of saying "I'll get back to my old routine tomorrow." We seem to drop our exercise routines, have an extra glass of egg nog, or sneak to the kitchen to nibble on leftovers. Not only does that eventually catch up to us, it also makes us feel worse the following day and the cycle continues. You get really full, feel sick and the next day you starve yourself. That can wreak havoc on your metabolism.
Take for instance your Thanksgiving dinner. A typical meal of turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and dessert amounts to 1,500 calories or more. That's well above the 1,200 calories some people should be eating in one day. Add in alcohol at 250 calories per mixed drink or 120 calories per glass of wine and you can see that total number rise even further. Remember, for every extra 3,500 calories you take, in you'll gain about one pound of weight. That means just two mixed drinks a day between Thanksgiving and New Year's would add on 5 1/2 pounds of weight alone!
You have to be extra careful, and that starts with learning the basics of healthy eating and not feeling guilty; even if you haven't been able to sample everything on the table.
Grandma might be cooking all day, but you can't be guilt-ridden into eating. Your guilt will overwhelm you later because you ate all this food. Instead, you should come prepared. Get up in the morning. Have breakfast and a nice lunch and portion it out. Ask Grandma for a doggie bag before you sit down and portion out what you are going to eat and what you are going to take home.
Plan on having about 3 ounces of meat, which is the size of a deck of cards. Don't restrict yourself from eating what you like, but eat it in moderation. Don't starve yourself beforehand; you'll only end up eating more. Instead, eat a light meal in the morning and again before you go to dinner or a holiday party and you will likely eat less.
If you're the one throwing the party, consider changing your recipes a bit. Just a little change can make a world of difference without affecting the flavor. Use less butter or sugar. Usually you can halve the sugar in desserts and no one will notice the difference. Rather than whole milk, use skim milk. And when you're serving meat, go heavy on the white meat and steer clear or eat less of the dark meat.
If you're making turkey for Christmas dinner, pick out a plain bird instead of a self-basting one. Remove the skin when eating. When making gravy, refrigerate the pan juices first and skim off the fat. That will save 56 grams of fat per cup of juice. As you make dressing, use less bread and substitute in more fruits and vegetables like onions, celery, cranberries and apples. Finally, when it comes to those delicious mashed potatoes, use skim milk, garlic powder and a little parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
Most importantly, don't forget to exercise. If you know you're eating more, then exercise more or increase the intensity. It's all about intake and output. Remember it takes work to take off those extra pounds. Every little bit counts.
Counting the calories
Unsure how many calories are packed into your favorite food? Use the guide below:
6 ounces ham, 300 calories
6 ounces white and dark turkey, 340 calories
1/2 cup stuffing, 180 calories
1/2 cup mashed potatoes, 150 calories
1/2 cup gravy, 150 calories
1/2 cup green bean casserole, 225 calories
1/2 cup sweet potatoes, 150 calories
1 dinner roll, 110 calories
1 piece pumpkin pie, 180 calories
1 piece apple pie, 410 calories
1 piece pecan pie, 480 calories
1/2 cup whipped cream, 75 calories
1 mixed drink, 250 calories
1 glass wine, 120 calories
1 cup eggnog, 340 calories
Denise Coots, RD, LD, CNSC is the clinical nutrition coordinator at SSM Health, St. Mary's hospital in Jefferson City. She has a passion for helping others ranging from those patients in the intensive care unit to individuals in the community with various dietary issues.