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Holiday Survival Guide

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The decorations are up, the parties are planned and the food is being prepared, that can mean only one thing: it is officially eati . . . I mean . . . holiday season.  Holiday season might as well be called eating season, which means lots of tempting, delicious treats and drinks.  Are you ready for your diet to get derailed?  You’ve worked too hard this year to let that happen.  From eggnog to ham, casserole to cookies, gravy and dressings, the food during the holidays are secretly packed with not-so-good-for-you fats, sugars, carbohydrates, and loads of calories.  Why trade your health for holiday favorites that are typically high in caloric content, when you can have both?  You don’t have to sit in the corner at the family get together and mope about all the foods you can’t eat.  Satisfy your holiday appetite and keep your waistline in check with these simple, delicious and nutritious tips for substitutes and modifications instead!

Holiday Survival Guide Tip #1: To Eat or Not To Eat:  Just about every house and every party this Christmas season will have some of the most common holiday foods including meats, breads, cookies, and other sweets. The key is not necessarily avoiding them all together, but using good judgement and watching the proportions.  You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: everything in moderation.

Meats to Avoid: red meat in general but particularly ham and beef pot roast. Also, peel the skin off meats, which contains lots of fatty calories. Pick: lean meats like fish, chicken and roast turkey (without the skin)

Baked sweets Skip: pecan pie (500-800 calories depending on slice size), shortbread cookies, pie crust, or desserts with multiple sweets in them, like double chocolate fudge brownie nut marshmellow cookies with sprinkles on top.  Get the idea?  Pick:  gingersnaps, meringues, pumpkin muffins, mini fruit tarts and fruit or fruit salads.

Sides Skip: standard stuffing, cheese cheese balls), sweet potato casserole, potato salad.  Pick: fresh salads (the more colorful your salad, the more vitamins and nutrients!), unsweetened fruit salads, whole grain roll, cranberries, baked (not candied or casseroled) sweet potatoes

Snacks Skip: macadamia and Brazil nuts, cashews, candy, peanut brittle, truffles, potato chips and creamy dips.  Pick: raw or toasted almonds, dried fruit, pretzels or baked chips, vegetables and hummus dip (one of my favorites)

Condiments Skip: cream-based salad dressing (e.g., ranch, Caesar, bleu cheese), traditional gravy.  Pick: light balsamic, vinegar salad dressing.  My favorite is Newman’s Own Honey Mustard, bring your own if you need to.

Preparation styles Skip: honey-glazed, butterball, fried, breaded, candied, and anything with “cream of” in its name are all good signals that the food is stacked with fatty calories  Pick: grilled, stewed, sautéed, marinated, baked, broiled, seasoned

Holiday Survival Guide Tip #2: The Best and Worst Festive Beverages  Some of the most common holiday beverages, are eggnog, hot chocolate, ciders, and seasonal drinks.  Unfortunately when it comes to drinks, it is often hard to tell which are the nutritional culprits and which are not so bad.  So I broke it down for you: Drinks to Avoid:

Traditional Eggnog (especially homemade)

Milky, nutty, chocolate or caramel specialty coffees


Boiled Custard (especially homemade)

Better Alternatives:

Unsweetened apple cider

Hot chocolate (without the mini marshmallows)

Peppermint, vanilla, or cinnamon spice teas

Skim, soy milk or almond milk (vanilla or chocolate)

Holiday Survival Guide Tip #3: Portion Control Make sure before you attend any party or get together that you remember this important tip:  Be aware not only of what you eat, but also of how much you eat. It’s all about portion control and selectivity. What you put into your body determines, in part, what you get out of your body.  Keep a journal, track the foods you eat.  You will be surprised at the amount of calories, fat, carbs, etc that you can eat in a day or even in one meal.  You’ve heard me mention it before but I use the Tap and Track app to easily keep a record of the foods that I eat daily.  So keep your portions in check, regardless of what food you’re putting into your mouth!

Holiday Survival Guide Tip #4:  Get Crafty in the Kitchen Gotta have Grandma’s homemade, passed down recipe for chocolate chip cookies? Then simply substitute out some of the fatty, sugary ingredients for more nutritious ones. Some modifications to the typical, generic recipes can save you from the post-meal bloating and an extra few pounds:

  • Replace each tablespoon of butter with an equivalent tablespoon of heart-healthy oil, like canola or vegetable oil.
  • To keep the moisture and texture of the cookies, you can also use 1 to 4 tablespoons of a liquid ingredient (like fruit juice, skim milk, or nonfat buttermilk) in place of up to 4 tablespoons butter.
  • Add some fiber by using fiber-fortified ingredients like whole-wheat flour or oats, which adds about four times as much fiber to your cookies (or other pastry) than using white flour.
  • Even adding just 2-4 tablespoons of ground flax seeds to a batch of cookies creates a richer flavor and provides more fiber.
  • Grease your pans and pots with the healthy oil instead of butter before making eggs or pasta and everything in between.
  • The key is making sure to substitute enough of the butter to cut calories but not so much as to lose the moistness of the baked good and cut its shelf life short. Be sure to use airtight containers to store your treats for later since you just replaced fat, which is a natural preservative.

Holiday Survival Guide Tip #5: Where’s the Willpower?  When those fatty foods and delicious looking sweets are calling out to you, “eat me, eat me”.  What do you do?  Try using one of these tips to fight the urge and curb your appetite:

  • Chew on a stick of gum
  • Engage in conversation
  • Bring a dish or two to the party, so you know that you have a healthy option at your fingertips.
  • Show up to the party full or after having already eaten something (even just an apple will help fill up part of your stomach so there is less room for additional food).
  • Workout before you arrive.  Your metabolism will be revved up and you have already burned off some of extra calories you are about to consume.  Plus, after working out it will definitely make it harder to indulge in something unhealthy.

RESOURCE: Eat This, Not That


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