Holiday foods don't have to go to waist

There's no cause to add extra pounds -- if you can keep these hints on your plate

Health & Fitness

November 30, 2003|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,Special to the Sun

So let's say you ate the ham and the turkey with gravy, the candied sweet potatoes and the mashed, the green bean casserole, buttered green beans, cranberry sauce, glazed carrots, two kinds of stuffing and Brussels sprouts.

Then, for the sake of argument, let's say that you slathered some butter on your two dinner rolls, downed a few glasses of soda and a cup of eggnog and tucked into two slices of pie a la mode (pumpkin and pecan), a hunk of homemade cheesecake and a chocolate chip cookie.

The total for that little holiday meal is: 3,953 calories and 1,744 grams of fat, according to the American Dietetic Association.

What's the big deal, you ask? It's the holidays, time to indulge. The diet will start Jan. 1.

We've heard all the excuses, even used them ourselves. But now it's time to listen up, because this year is going to be different. This year that extra pound that creeps onto most adults between Thanksgiving and New Year's is going calling elsewhere. This year, you're going to consume lots of different types of festive foods and drinks in moderation and not get left feeling like Jabba the Hutt. This year we've got the simple, practical tips that will make it all possible.

And you won't need to become a recluse to stay healthy. Says registered dietician Colleen Pierre, who runs a private practice in the Village of Cross Keys, "the holidays are the most wonderful time of year to eat really special foods. ... This is the food that ties us to the people we love."

That said, here are 10 helpful hints to keep you from overindulging and gaining unwanted pounds this holiday season. And, uh, please pass the gravy.

1. Get a game plan. "The holidays are a tough time to lose weight," says Kathleen Brady, a personal trainer at Lynne Brick's health and fitness center in Belvedere Square. So, don't set yourself up for failure. Instead, just try to maintain your weight during the holidays.

2. Pick your favorites. Before hitting the holiday table, decide which foods are your favorites and which foods you could care less about, says Pierre. Eat a modest serving of your favorite sweet potato casserole, but bypass the boring crackers and cheese at cocktail hour.

"Scout carefully to see what's unique to the season," she suggests. By eating only the holiday foods that you really love, you're actually more likely to eat less.

3. Get a grip on portions. Three heaping spoons of stuffing do not a serving make. Remember to eat actual portion sizes, not the honking big portions served in many restaurants. One ounce of chips is one large handful. Three ounces of meat is the size of the palm of your hand.

4. Join a gym. Do it now, before they become overcrowded in January. "It's our slowest time," Brady explains. "Joining when it's not busy allows you to become more comfortable in the surroundings and get used to a new place." And joining now allows you to get into an exercise plan to offset the extra calories you'll probably be consuming over the next six weeks, she adds.

5. Eat before the party. Choose something healthy and filling, like a salad with grilled chicken, before you go to a cocktail party. This will help you not eat so much after you arrive. Stand away from the buffet table and tempting dips and bowls of spiced nuts. If you must eat during the party, get a white wine spritzer or flavored seltzer and pick from veggie trays or steamed shrimp.

6. Go fitted. "Wear snug-fitting clothes when you go to a party," Pierre suggests. "When people wear something they look really good in, they tend to pay attention to what they are eating." And when your stomach is full, that snug-fitting waistband tightens a tad more as a reminder that it's time to stop eating.

7. Have fun without food. Focus on family and friends, not sugar cookies, chocolate truffles and eggnog. Instead of baking cookies, make ornaments. Go for a walk to spot well-decorated houses instead of hanging at home with the fondue pot simmering and the big game on the TV. Food doesn't have to be the point of every holiday gathering.

8. Pay the piper. Recognize that overeating at one holiday event doesn't mean that the entire season is a lost cause. Enjoy your favorite once-a-year treats, and balance a big meal or handful of rum balls with a salad for dinner or a few extra minutes on the treadmill.

9. Get moving. Find your exercise wherever you can, Brady suggests. "Park the farthest away from the mall entrance and use the stairs," she says. No time for a big walk in the morning? Squeeze in two 15-minute walks during the day instead. Every little bit counts.

10. Call it quits. Know when to stop eating, says dietician Noralyn L. Wilson, senior manager of nutrition services at Sodexho Health Care Services in Columbia. "Take small portions of foods you love, fill the rest of your plate with vegetables and salad," Wilson says. "Once you have completed this plate, stop eating!"

If you want it, work for it

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