LSU AgCenter nutritionist: Watch out for extra holiday calories
Are you one of the many Americans who face the holiday season with some fear of gaining weight? The good news is that although many people gain weight from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, research suggests that the gain will probably be only one pound, not five, said LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.
The bad news is that most people likely will keep that pound during the coming year, she said. The average weight gain for most Americans is one to two pounds a year.
“Mindful eating in moderation and a few simple strategies can help you enjoy the holidays and avoid holiday weight gain,” Reames said. “These include planning time for activity, incorporating healthy recipes into your holiday meals, and not restricting yourself from enjoying your favorite holiday foods.”
Reames offers these tips to help avoid holiday weight gain:
—Be realistic. You don’t have to lose weight that you don’t gain. Instead of trying to lose weight over the holidays, strive to maintain weight.
—Be selective. Think about what foods you really want to eat, which ones you will just sample and which ones you will skip.
—Don’t skip breakfast. Studies show that skipping breakfast often leads to overeating later. Eat a light, nutritious snack such as soup, fruit or cereal before going to a party to help curb hunger and make better choices.
—Watch portion sizes. Three ounces lean meat, chicken or fish measure about the size of a deck of cards or a checkbook. A teaspoon of margarine is the size of the tip of your thumb to the first joint. One-half cup of mashed potatoes is half a tennis ball.
—Avoid oversized portions by using smaller plates, bowls and glasses. Instead of a 10-inch plate, switch to an 8-inch or appetizer-sized plate, this will automatically limit portions.
—Eat foods with high water and fiber content, such as soup, fruits and vegetables. These offer a way to cut back on calories and help feel full and satisfied.
—At holiday meals and parties, fill a plate with salad and vegetables before moving to the entrees and desserts. Enjoy a large salad before eating other holiday foods and aim to make vegetables take up half of the space on the plate.
—Don’t deprive yourself of your favorites. Make it a balancing act. Use less salad dressing and go for a small slice of chocolate cream pie. Or balance favorites with low-calorie foods, such as vegetables with a small amount of dip or boiled shrimp with lemon.
—Eat slowly and savor each delicious bite of food. This will help prevent overeating.
—To avoid nibbling on food without thinking about it, move away from the food table after filling your plate.
—Before going back for a second serving, wait 10 minutes to see if the hunger remains.
Reames also offers tips for hosts who may be in charge of the menu or preparing items for the meal:
—Make it healthfully delicious and lower calorie, too.
—Substitute lower-fat ingredients for higher-fat ingredients in recipes. Using fat-free or low-fat sour cream or cream cheese in dessert recipes is a great way to enjoy holiday favorites that taste delicious but are much lower in fat and calories.
—Use fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth and skim milk in place of butter or other fat in holiday stuffing to keep it moist but lower in calories and fat.
—Use skim milk or evaporated skim milk when preparing mashed potatoes. Use herbs rather than salt to flavor.
—Remove fat from gravy using a fat separator or refrigerate the food overnight and skim off the hardened fat.
—Include sweet potatoes in your menus. They’re a rich source of beta-carotene, the plant source of vitamin A. Bake and top them with cinnamon and nutmeg. For a little extra sweetness, add a small amount of orange or pineapple juice, or a sprinkle of artificial sweetener instead of marshmallows and sugar.
Beverages need to be considered as well as foods, Reames said. “Watch out for liquid calories. The calories in fruit juices and drinks with added sugar, sweetened coffee beverages and soft drinks can add up fast.”
She also cautions that alcoholic beverages have calories and can increase appetite. “Start with a calorie-free, nonalcoholic beverage and satisfy your thirst before having an alcoholic drink,” she said. “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.”
Finally, don’t forget to plan time for physical activity. “Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and helps prevent weight gain,” Reames said. “A moderate, daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating. Try 10- or 15-minute brisk walks twice a day, playing games or going on a walking tour of decorated homes.”