Indulge in Christmas goodies while keeping off extra pounds

2010-12-09T00:00:00Z 2011-08-24T11:03:57Z Indulge in Christmas goodies while keeping off extra poundsBy Jane Fyksen, Crops Editor Agri-View
December 09, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Ever notice when the Christmas season ends, you clothes don’t fit the way they used to?

The average American gains 5 to 7 pounds in the eight weeks before New Year’s Day. It’s much easier keeping that extra weight at bay than trying to hold to a New Year’s resolution to shed that extra baggage around your middle and backside. This week Agri-View offers some hints for keeping the weight off as you celebrate.

Mary Meehan-Strub, family living agent in La Crosse County, says while it’s true physical activity burns calories and is, of course, very good for your overall health, it’s “much easier to gain a pound by eating extra food than it is to walk that pound off. Generally one pound of body fat is gained by taking in an extra 3,500 calories,” she reports. “If a person eats 250 calories more than normal every day for two weeks, they could add 1 pound to their body weight. One brownie can have 250 calories.”

“While a person can gain 1 pound in two weeks, it takes a little bit longer to walk it off. A typical person can burn 100 calories by walking for 30 minutes,” she continues. “To get rid of that 1 pound of weight, a person would need to walk for 30 minutes, 35 days.”

The Marshfield Clinic and Ministry Health Care heart care team in Marshfield has these party tips:

• Don’t skip meals in anticipation of the smorgasbord to come.

• Eat prior to attending a holiday gathering; you’ll likely be less hungry at the event and apt to overindulge in all the goodies.

• Distance yourself from the buffet, so you’re not tempted to “nibble.”

• Don’t try to cut out all of your fattening holiday favorites. Instead, be selective with choices and concentrate on smaller portions of your favorite foods.

• Use a smaller plate to cut back on calories.

• Sample different foods at different events. If you had cheese and crackers at one party, have something else at the next one.

• Remember, alcohol contains calories, too. Vow to drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages. Likewise, watch out for high-calorie drinks like punch, eggnog and even flavored coffee drinks. Water can be your “best friend” to avoid extra calories in holiday beverages.

Meehan-Strub adds a few of her own:

• Fill up on fruits and vegetables. They’re healthy and low in calories. (Similarly, bring a nutritious dish with fewer calories, such as a fresh fruit or vegetable platter centered with a low-fat dip. That way you’re guaranteed at least one “safe” item. Substitute yogurt for mayonnaise in the dip for a low-fat alternative.)

• Concentrate on fun rather than food. Visit with friends before hitting the buffet line. Hopefully you’ll get so wrapped up in laughter and good conversation that you’ll forget about all of those calories awaiting you on the buffet.

• Simply be aware of what you’re eating, and eat slowly. “It’s very easy to take in lost of extra calories while you are visiting and not even remember what you ate,” says Meehan-Strub.

Recipes can be altered for healthier holiday eating. Marshfield Clinic heart professionals share these tips:

• Cut down on saturated fat in creamy dressings by mixing in some nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt.

• Use two egg whites instead of one whole egg; eliminating the yolk is healthier.

• Substitute chopped vegetables for some of the bread in your stuffing recipe.

• Roast veggies, skinless chicken and other meats. When roasting meats, do so on a rack in your pan so the fat can drip away from the meat.

• Use evaporated skim milk instead of cream or half-and-half for cream sauces and baked goodies.

• Instead of roasting a whole stuffed turkey on Christmas day, why not just roast turkey breasts (the healthiest part of the bird).

• When roasting your turkey, cut out the butter (or at least cut it in half) and baste with the drippings. Plus use as many fresh herbs as you can imagine.

• Lighten up that proverbial family favorite n green bean casserole. Instead of using condensed cream of mushroom soup and whole milk, go with Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup and skim milk, and cut the French fried onions in half. You can reduce calories per half-cup serving from 253 to 152 and fat from 17 grams to eight. Here’s the recipe: 18 ounces French-style green beans (thawed), one can Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup, 3/4 cup skim milk and one can (three ounces) French fried onions.

Lighten up a holiday cranberry salad with sugar-free gelatin (instead of regular) and fat-free sour cream (instead of regular), knocking calories per serving from 218 to 112 and cutting fat from four grams to none. Here’s the recipe: Two packages (0.35 ounce) sugar-free raspberry gelatin; 2 cups boiling water; 1 can (16 ounces) whole cranberry sauce; one can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple (lightly drained); one cup fat-free sour cream.

Mary Bielamowicz, Texas A&M University nutrition specialist, says the sugar, fat or salt of almost any holiday recipe can be reduced without a noticeable difference in taste. “If a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, use two-thirds of a cup,” she recommends. “If it calls for a half-cup of oil, shortening or other fat, use one-third cup. And if a recipe says to use one-half teaspoon of salt, use one-quarter teaspoon or omit the salt entirely.”

Bielamowicz says it’s easy to overuse salt during the holidays, and that new U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines recommend a lower daily sodium intake than previous recommendations. “The 2010 guidelines indicate that the recommended sodium consumption for the average American should be 1,500 milligrams or less sodium per day, down from the 2005 recommendation of 2,300 milligrams or less per day,” she reports.

Another more healthful substitution is to use whole-grain or bran flours in recipes calling for all-purpose flour. “In most instances, you can replace one-quarter to one-half the amount of all-purpose flour you see in holiday recipes with whole wheat flour,” she notes.

Connie Sheppard, Texas A&M Extension agent for family and consumer sciences in Bexar County, Texas, suggests using de-fatted broth instead of butter in mashed potatoes to reduce both fat and calories. (Sorry dairy producers, but the aim here is to cut fat and calories; reducing butter in recipes will allow you to enjoy your butter applied at the table.)

Sheppard also suggests cooking stuffing on the side (i.e. technically referred to as dressing). Stuffing the inside of the turkey absorbs more oil, and getting the bird’s internal temperature high enough to cook it can lead to overcooking the meat.

“For those who enjoy beef for the holidays, research has shown that brisket has a healthier fatty-acid composition than other cuts of beef,” reports Stephen Smith, meat scientist with Texas A&M.

Research has demonstrated that beef brisket contains “depots” or tiny reservoirs of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, he notes. “But while brisket has a better fatty-acid composition, it still has about the same calorie content as other cuts of beef,” he adds.

Information on other healthful food substitutions can be found in “Altering Recipes for Good Health,” which can be downloaded at

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