How to Enjoy the Holidays without Gaining (Much) Weight

Holiday parties and dinners present all kinds of options.  I think all foods are fine in moderation.  The trick is moderation!  Here are some tips for enjoying food in moderation, if, like me, you tend to over-indulge and pack on pounds…

Don’t skip meals on the day of the party. You know what a beast stored hunger is. You’ll be far better off if you eat a good breakfast and lunch and stay hydrated before dinner or cocktail parties.  If you usually eat cereal or toast for breakfast, maybe try oatmeal that day, or eggs and canadian bacon, for more staying power throughout the day.

Eat before you go out. If you can manage to grab a snack before you go out, you’ll be less likely to eat too much at the party (or before shopping!).  Eat something substantial, like greek yogurt with honey, and a small handful of almonds.  That will line your tummy, too, in case you eat something spicy or drink alcohol.

Keep a camera handy. Why? If you get attacks of shyness at social gatherings (like I do), you can always take pictures of people, or holiday decorations, or the food.  That way, you won’t eat or drink just to keep busy or to feel less conspicuous if no one is talking to you. Taking pictures keeps you busy and can be a great ice-breaker.

Look out for the holiday blues. Everyone I know gets depressed a little bit at some point during the holidays. It’s really common.  Before you snack, ask yourself if you’re really hungry, or just bored, lonely, disappointed, tired or even thirsty.  If you’re hungry, eat. Otherwise, have a cup of peppermint tea (hot beverages are great for curbing appetite and peppermint has been shown to lessen depression). Another blues-buster is to take a walk outside to rev up your mood (and your metabolism).

Skip (or reduce) the alcohol. It’s true for many people that alcohol tends to lower their inhibitions, which can lead to eating more. One healthy, non-alcoholic drink option that looks and tastes festive is to order cranberry spritzers (cranberry juice and club soda with lime).

You can also order white wine spritzers, or ask the bartender to make a drink with half the alcohol.

If you choose to drink, alternate imbibing cocktails or glasses of bubbly champagne (100 calories) with glasses of water, mineral water, or seltzer.  (This will also help prevent a hangover!)

Try the lower fat versions in recipes. In some cases, the low-fat options are really good. I like light versions of sour cream, mayonnaise and salad dressing and use them in my recipes for veggie dip, etc.

A great way to cut fat in mashed potatoes is to mash them with buttermilk.  It’s delicious! But pass on the homemade gravy — too much fat.  Try canned gravy or jarred gravy instead; we’re talking a 300 calorie-plus difference!

I love stuffing with lots of onion and celery.  Try replacing all or some of the butter in stuffing recipes with canned, fat-free chicken stock or vegetable stock.  Also, don’t cook it inside the turkey.  It will absorb fat and calories from the bird.

Dress hot vegetables like green beans, broccoli or brussel sprouts with olive oil and herbs to avoid the less healthy fat in butter.

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Just don’t go there.  I know, it’s delicious but if I told you how many calories, you wouldn’t believe me.  Try this version of sweet potato casserole instead, which has only 3 g of fat and at least half the calories.

It’s amazing the calories you can save just by choosing pumpkin pie over pecan pie.  And that spray whipped cream only has 30 calories a serving!  If you ate just the top of your pie, along with the canned whipped cream, you’d save all kinds of calories by skipping the fat-laden crust. I do that, sometimes.

Lean meats and fish are good bets on the buffet table. Just a little cheese has a lot of calories. But, shrimp has few calories (as long as it isn’t fried), as does smoked salmon. Beef tenderloin is a luscious 165 calories a serving.

Olives, raw veggies, and mushrooms have practically no calories at all.

I was surprised at how many calories are in fruit cake. It seems so benign! But 1/4 of a Claxton fruit cake will set you back 390 calories and it has a lot of fat. If you indulge in fruit cake, take just a nibble.

Did you know a lot of those holiday coffee drinks are packed with calories and fat? As much as or more than candy bars!  Make your own coffee at home and add purchased flavored creamers (30 calories per serving) like White Chocolate Peppermint or Pumpkin and top with canned whipped cream (another 30 calories) and you’ll save money and more than 500 calories in some instances!

The holidays are about having fun, and food is part of that. If weight loss is personal goal, I hope some of these options work well for you.

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