Do the holidays weigh you down? If so, you are not alone.
According to the Calorie Control Council, an association that represents the low and reduced-calorie food industry, the average American may consume 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on some holidays, from both the traditional turkey dinner with sides at Thanksgiving, as well as snacking before and after the meal. It is very possible, however, to still enjoy the holidays and festivities, and lighten up those calories considerably with these tips:
- 1. Eat a high protein breakfast. Filling up on protein foods before you even leave the house or start cooking can curb your hunger and help to keep you full longer, so it will be easier to pass on the appetizers and pre-meal snacks. Choose scrambled eggs with vegetables, cottage cheese and fruit, or Greek yogurt stirred into oatmeal. Extra calories spent on breakfast will save calories later in the day. BONUS TIP: put protein powder in your oatmeal or use protein drink for the breakfast meal
- 2. Fill up on lower calorie appetizers first. Fresh fruits and vegetables, shrimp cocktail, even deviled eggs are all low in calories compared to nuts, olives, and baked Brie appetizers. If you are doing the cooking, make sure you have healthy and low-calorie snack options available for guests. If you are a guest, offer to bring fresh fruit and a yogurt dip, or try your hand at fresh spring rolls, so you are guaranteed a low-calorie appetizer. BONUS TIP: if you eat an appetizer use those calories as part of your meal. For example, it you eat a vegetable appetizer; only eat protein at your meal. If you eat a protein, like shrimp cocktail, then only eat a vegetable for your meal.
- 3. Stick to no-calorie or low-calorie beverages. Many people are surprised to learn that each glass of wine or beer contributes about 150 calories. Sweet mixed drinks or punches can have even more calories. Stick to light beer, or a wine spritzer, and alternate between caloric beverages and a glass of water or flavored seltzer, and save the calories for eating instead of drinking. BONUS TIP: You may not be able to tolerate carbonation still so stick with non-carbonated drinks such as flavored or infused water.
- 4. Survey the table first. Rather than take a serving of each dish on the table, examine the choices first, and make a game plan. Start with larger portions of vegetables and salads, then the turkey, and small portions of the side dishes. Enjoy the foods you really love, and pass on those that are not important to you. BONUS TIP: Use a saucer or dessert plate for your meals
- 5. Take one less spoonful. The biggest reason for holiday calorie overload is that portion sizes are often out of control. Side dishes like mashed potatoes, sweet potato or green bean casseroles, and stuffing are very high in calories, which mean that taking just one less scoop of each can lighten your calorie load significantly, while still allowing you to enjoy your favorite foods.
- 6. Slow it down. Remind yourself that the food on the table is not going to disappear. By eating more slowly, you can focus on the flavors of the meal, and the conversation at the table. Try to take at least 15 to 20 minutes to finish your plate of food. Chances are, you will not be hungry for a second helping after that time, but if you are, the food will still be there.
- 7. Watch out for those added calories. Condiments such as cranberry sauce, gravy, butter, whipped cream, and cream in your coffee contribute extra calories. Be conscious of your serving sizes on the cranberry sauce and gravy, and skip the butter and cream, which you probably will not even miss.
- 8. Choose your dessert wisely. For some, at Thanksgiving would not be the same without mom’s pumpkin or pecan pie, but it pays to be aware of the calories in various desserts. A slice of pecan pie has 503 calories, apple pie has 411 calories, and a slice of pumpkin pie averages 316 calories. On the other hand, a 2-inch square brownie has only 112 calories. Decide which will satisfy your sweet tooth the best. BONUS TIP: Who says you have eat dessert on the holiday anyway? Take it to go or eat it the next day!
- 9. Go for a brisk walk after dinner. Gather the family, or go alone if you must. Getting up and moving after dinner will not only make you feel better after the big meal, it will also burn off some of those excess calories. Just 20 minutes of brisk walking will burn off about 200 calories. BONUS TIP: Try to stick to your normal exercise and activity routine as much as possible during the holidays. Doing it when you can, consistency is the key!!
- 10. Make your turkey or your leftover meat into a sandwich a wrap. Sandwich wraps generally have fewer calories than two slices of bread, and they force you to limit your contents to what can be rolled up inside. Load up on skinless turkey breast and use up the extra vegetables in your nighttime snack or meal. BONUS TIP: Save even more calories and with a lettuce wrap or a salad with leftover turkey.
References and recommended reading
CalorieKing.com website. http://www.calorieking.com. Accessed November 16, 2015.
Stuff the bird, not yourself: How to deal with the 3,000 calorie Thanksgiving meal. Calorie Control Council website. http://caloriecontrol.org/stuff-the-bird-not-yourself-how-to-deal-with-the-3000-calorie-thanksgiving-meal/. Accessed November 16, 2015.
Contributed by Anne Danahy, MS, RDN, Review date: 11/15/15
Bonus Tips were provided by Joey Sjostrom, RD, LDN, date: 10/14/16