Smart Health Talk

Surviving the Holiday Without Packing on the Pounds

By adjusting some of our actions and choices we can start the new year already on track to a more healthful lifestyle and ideal body weight instead of looking at an extra 20 pounds packed on in just a little over a month of holiday partying. Pig out until your miserable, indulge in some of your favorite holiday foods, and party on your terms. Just be real on what you are consuming, plan how to make up the difference and see if you can at least keep the scale needle steady and not let it move upward.


San Bernardino, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 11/21/2012 -- Everyone wants to make it past the holidays without packing on the pounds. People say they want to know what to do, but do they really want to follow the rules and will they?

Some yes, most no. The majority of us go into Thanksgiving ready to power down like we have been given permission to eat until we’re miserable on one day a year, and we’re going for it and pay the price later.

As a registered dietitian that wants more than anything for people to have fun and enjoy the holidays on their terms, so my recommendations are centered on a “reality approach.” Go into Thanksgiving Day knowing there’s a good chance you’ll be eating 2000-3000 calories that day or just think double your average.

Plan ahead by saving calories now and reduce portion sizes for a day or two before the big meal. Fit some exercise in too. Not just on days leading up, but on Thanksgiving Day as well. You know that exercise will probably not happen after you eat and have a few beers watching football so get a 30 minute walk done early in the day and then eat until you can't move later if that’s your goal.

Try not to overdue on the alcohol. Perhaps buy something that is a step up from what you normally buy, and drink less, slower and savor the higher quality. One recommendation is to try some organic beer, wine, and spirits. They are free of sulfites, pesticides, GMOs, and even gluten. Wine is the only food in the store without a nutrition facts and ingredient label. Big question mark what’s really in your wine unless it’s USDA certified organic. Excellent organic wines in the $12-$18 range. Our experience found them comparable to $50-$100 conventional wines.

Take a long nap. Have found that sleep can be a good diet tool if you time it right. Sleep during your most vulnerable times can save you thousands of calories a week. If you never eat late, but graze at 7-8:00 start going to bed at 6:30 pm. So what if you get up at 4:00 am. For some that can be a productive period and most people don’t eat during that time of day.

Some say to eat breakfast so you don’t eat as much at Thanksgiving dinner. That can work for some, but those that want to save calories for later, may want to wait to eat or keep it light. I’m not going to force myself to eat breakfast and add 300-500 calories to my day when I can save up. For me it’s about total calories for the day.

You hear a lot of advice to first fill your plate with salad and veggies. That is always the number one goal, but what if all that goes out the window, what’s a strategy to help save you from yourself?

Whether Thanksgiving dinner, an all you can eat buffet, or special restaurant my first choice is to have something not eaten at home. That doesn’t mean all choices have to be bad. For example eating lots of turkey and some turkey skin if you love it as much as I do would not be as bad as choosing to eat something processed and made of chemicals, GMOs, transfats, and refined grains and sugars.

Have healthy favorites at the meal that are “free to eat all you want” even if you have to bring it yourself. Something that my brain is OK with choosing over other fat laden, high sugar food choices at Thanksgiving (and all year) is Waldorf salad made with organic apples, walnuts, and celery. It’s sweet enough, lots of crunch, and fills me up over high calorie desserts.

Cut out fat and sugar wherever possible when your cooking foods, and you’ll eliminate hundreds of unneeded calories.

Hard to take fat out of gravy and keep flavor so use less fat in making the potatoes. The gravy will provide the fat flavor so you don’t need all the butter and crème in the potatoes. Instead just add a little olive oil and a small amount of milk or broth. If you really love butter with your potatoes like me, give up the gravy and instead put some organic grassfed butter on top where you get the full taste. Yukon gold potatoes have a rich buttery flavor on their own without any added fat and make great mashed potatoes. Adding garlic instead of fat is another way to get flavor and keeping down the calories.

Buy organic sweet potatoes and eliminate the need for sugar, fat, and marshmallows. Organic yams and sweet potatoes will taste different most times and have a sweeter and richer flavor. Eat year round for beta carotene and other anti inflammatory benefits.

Think about slicing them and drizzling with raw honey and fresh squeezed orange juice for flavor. Another healthier alternative is maple syrup to add sweetness without processed sugars.

Fresh organic fruits, vegetables, whole grain crackers with lowfat dips are perfect hordorves and snacks before dinner. Avoid GMO containing corn and soy products such as corn chips and popcorn. Choose certified organic instead. Use Greek yogurts in dips and salads in place of mayonnaise or split it half/half. Adding a little agave can balance bitter flavor in yogurt. Offer refried bean, salsa, and hummus (chickpea/garbanzo bean) dips to increase fiber and lower fat. Avoid chemical laden non organic mixes and premade dips.

Think of organic buttermilk for cutting calories in creamy salad dressings. Mix some right in. The dressing will be thinner, but so will you. Use organic, unadulterated olive oil and balsamic vinegar for flavor.

Leave room for dessert, choose your favorite(s), and enjoy every precious bite to the hilt. Remember the three-bite rule. By the third bite most of the thrill is gone and taste buds are saturated so the wow factor is diminished. After that you are just going through the motions of eating and not really getting the flavor punch anymore so why not stop.

Space out the treats, let your pallet clear, and build up the anticipation. By spreading out your special treats such as pie, chocolates, and candies you will feel more satisfied because each memory will be separate instead of running together. That will bring more total pleasure than one session of trying some of everything. After awhile you are just feeding your face, and not giving your full attention to the flavors exploding on your taste sensors.

Get back on track right away after Thanksgiving instead of waiting for New Year's Day to start eating healthier. Remember to balance party extras by reducing portion sizes, switch to whole food meals, and fit in the exercise. Starting now to control weight gain instead of facing extra pounds put on during the holidays puts you on your way to a healthy 2013. Go to website for healthy Thanksgiving recipes, our Smart Health Resolutions for 2013, podcasts, and all kinds of other resources to improve your health.