THE HOLIDAY PERIOD between now and the end of the year poses a serious problem to people interested in maintaining their weight.
The family get-togethers, parties and sumptuous meals that are traditional during this period can undermine even the most dedicated person's resolve, and undo much of what may have been accomplished in regard to weight control during the earlier part of the year.
It has been reported that the average person gains seven pounds between Thanksgiving and the new year. As anyone who has ever dieted knows well, it is much easier to put on those seven pounds than to take them off.
For those seriously interested in weight control, whether for health of cosmetic reasons or both, the best course of action is to avoid putting on those extra pounds or, at least, to limit the amount of weight gained.
Fortunately, this can be accomplished with some simple, common-sense modifications in the traditional holiday diet.
The size of portions, of course, is always an important consideration in weight control. Obviously, a three-ounce serving of turkey will provide fewer calories than a six-ounce serving of turkey. The difference in calories becomes even larger if the serving consists of light meat rather than dark meat, and if high-fat gravy and stuffing are omitted.
The effort to minimize any increase in weight over the holidays should start before a big traditional dinner. It is best not to skip breakfast and lunch on such days since that can lead to excessive hunger later in the day and overeating. It's better to have small but well-balanced meals.
Some fat-free vegetable soup 20 or 30 minutes before sitting down to dinner will also help avoid overeating by taking the edge off the appetite.
A few simple changes from the customary menu can result in a significant reduction in the total number of calories consumed. Equally important, these changes can be incorporated in the diet for use throughout the year, with benefit to the entire family.
For example, all fat should be skimmed from the turkey juices before preparing gravy. Stuffing can be made with bread, vegetables and brother; if some fat is desired, a little low-fat margarine would be a good choice.
Similarly, low-fat yogurt can be used in place of milk and butter when preparing mashed potatoes; parsley and chives can be added to enhance the flavor.
Vegetables should have a prominent place on the holiday menu. One unusual combination worth trying is carrots with zucchini or broccoli, with imported mushrooms and pearl onions. Generous amounts of cooked vegetables and salad greens should occupy a conspicuous place on the table.
It is not necessary to follow a Spartan diet to avoid the increase in weight that many people experience during the holiday period, but some modifications are desirable:
* Pumpkin pie can be made with evaporated skim milk instead of evaporated regular milk.
* A wine cooler can substitute for a mixed drink.
* Vegetables with a fat-free dig can replace crackers and cheese.
* Pineapple sweet potatoes are as acceptable as sweet potatoes with marshmallows.
* Pickled beets are a better choice than either carrots with brown sugar glaze or broccoli with hollandaise.
Efforts at weight control become an exercise in futility if dieters are expected to follow complex instructions that call for the preparation of exotic foods. Not only is compliance with such a plan highly unlikely, it does not constitute the kind of program that dieters can adapt to their everyday needs.
None of these suggestions involves unusual foods or unusual methods of preparation; neither do they cut calories at the expense of nutrition. A motivated dieter should be able to follow them during the holiday period and throughout the year.
For additional information and tips on dieting, write to Dr. Neil Solomon, c/o Slice of Life, P.O. Box 319, Owings Mills, Md., 21117.