Enjoy Holiday Foods without the Guilt and Weight Gain
By Robin Reichert
During the holidays there will be food, lots of food, sugar, butter, and so much delicious, fattening, wonderful things to taste. If you are on a diet, the holidays can be torture. Those extra calories can add up to weight gain of up to five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. There are ways to enjoy holiday favorites and still stay on your diet. If you are watching your weight or trying to lose weight, you are going to need strategies and food substitutions to help you stay on your diet and still to enjoy traditional holiday fare.
1. Snacking: The worst thing you can do for your waistline is to stand beside the treat table while chatting with friends and relatives. With many delicious treats within arm’s reach, you are bound to overindulge without really thinking about what you’re doing. Take a few goodies and step away from the table. Avoid the chips and dips. Dips are one of the most calorie-laden foods served during the holiday season. Add some buttery crackers and you have a diet disaster. A better choice for dipping is hummus or salsa. Replace those crackers with fresh vegetables like carrots or celery.
2. Appetizers: Creamy soups are a favorite holiday appetizer. One cream-based bowl of soup can have up to 300 or more calories lurking in all that deliciousness. Whole milk and heavy cream bases are also heavy with saturated fat. Healthy alternatives are broth-based soups. If you like thicker soups, try vegetable based purées. Substitute the cream with skim milk or water.
3. Candy: Skip the candies and indulge in a handful of dried fruits. Dried apricots, banana chips, and dried apples contain all of the flavor and nutrients, but none of the calories of candies. Try some cranberry sauce or cranberry salad. Cranberries are high in fiber, rich in potassium, and low in calories. Dried cranberries are a tasty way to get your sweet tooth fix while enjoying a healthy snack that also contains compounds that may help prevent urinary tract infections. Pecans and walnuts are good sources of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins and vitamins A and E. They are also a good source of calcium and zinc. The natural fats in nuts are also good for you. A handful of nuts can satisfy your need to munch without adding too many extra calories to your diet.
4. Dinner: Turkey and mashed potatoes will be on nearly every holiday table for Thanksgiving and again for Christmas dinner. Turkey is a healthy, high protein, low calorie food that you can indulge in without all the guilt and without destroying your diet. Avoid eating the skin and you can indulge. A three-ounce serving of skinless white meat turkey contains a mere 120 calories and about one gram of fat. One serving of skinless turkey also provides more than half of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid. Turkey is also rich in vitamin B, potassium and zinc. Folic acid and the other nutrients in turkey may help protect you against cancer and heart disease, too. However, beware of the mashed potatoes. Potatoes alone are healthy and contain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and potassium, and have very few calories, but potatoes prepared with butter and heavy cream are a diet disaster waiting to happen. Whip potatoes with low-calorie sour cream instead of heavy cream. Substitute low-calorie margarine for rich butter. Try some roasted sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber; vitamin A and potassium, just don’t load them up with butter, cream, or marshmallows. What’s a turkey dinner without the stuffing? Dress up your stuffing by adding nuts, dried fruits, celery, and carrots for a crunchy, healthier alternative. Instead of using butter, substitute low salt chicken broth to moisten.
5. Vegetables: Green beans are okay, right? Green beans are a good source of manganese, fiber, iron, and vitamins K, C and vitamin A. But, drown them in rich cream sauces, like that added to create green bean casserole, can negate any health benefits by adding hundreds of calories and loads of fat. Avoid the cream sauce and enjoy some delicious green beans boiled or steamed without all the calories.
6. Dessert: Cakes and pies contain hundreds of calories. It’s going to be difficult to avoid these goodies, especially if you love chocolate and baking. However, you don’t have to avoid chocolate altogether. Your health will actually benefit from eating a bit of this dark, delicious sweet. Dark chocolate has been linked to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of stroke or heart disease. Dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa solids contains higher levels of antioxidant flavonoids and fewer calories than lighter, or milk, chocolate. Flavonoids help reduce LDL, or the bad cholesterol, and help reduce cell damage. Enjoy some rich dark chocolate hot cocoa without risking too many calories, but forego the whipped cream.
You can enjoy all the holiday treats without the guilt and the weight gain by making substitutions in recipes and in your eating habits. Moderation is key. Drink a glass of water before every meal and you will feel fuller faster and be less likely to over-indulge. Happy Holidays!