Friday, December 17, 2010

How to Turn Your Holiday Choices into Healthy Holiday Favorites

By Lindsay Martin, M.S, R.D, LDN, Registered Dietician, Northwest Hospital

Whether your weakness is the loaded green bean casserole, pecan pie or rum-spiked eggnog, the holiday season is packed with one belly-busting temptation after another. Studies show the average person consumes an extra 600 calories a day between Thanksgiving and New Year's, which translates to approximately six pounds of excess weight.

While everyone's entitled to a little indulgence, especially around the holiday season, there's a fine line between festive and fattening. Fortunately, making simple food swaps helps keep the pounds down without sacrificing the holiday spirit. You don't have to diet. You don't have to deprive yourself. These are a few favorites I’ve found can be more satisfying throughout the holidays, especially when you don’t have guilt over your head as you make the better choices.

When headed to a party, master the buffet by using a small plate. Be mindful of what you drink. The average American consumes about 450 liquid calories a day. Try protein-based snacks, like jumbo shrimp, or cheese (swiss or mozzarella are your better cheese choices), which will make you feel full longer than carb-loaded breads will.

One of the most frequent questions I hear is, “what is the healthier alcoholic drink to choose?" For the fewest calories per drink, choose light beer or wine. Light or low-carb beers are available with as few as 70 calories, but a typical beer or glass of wine generally contains between 100 and 150 calories. Remember, too, that the size of the glass and serving makes a big difference. A single 'glass' of wine may actually be two servings, so try to measure keep your wine glass consistent with 4 oz. Below are some other popular alternatives when imbibing:

Worst cocktail:
Gin and tonic (8 ounces)
240 calories
22 g sugars

Alternative Drink:
100 calories
5 g sugars

The sad truth is that light-tasting tonic water contains as much sugar as two glazed doughnuts, making it nothing more than a glorified soda. Champagne is just as bubbly but contains only one-fourth of the sugar and half the calories.

Worst dip:
Spinach and artichoke dip
300 calories
19 g fat

Salsa (1/4 cup)
10 calories
0 g fat

The wrong dip can transform healthy veggies and a whole grain pita into vessels for fat and hundreds of extra calories of which is unnecessary. Avoid creamy, cheesy dips at all costs and stick to the tomato-based salsas and bruschetta, which are low-calorie and offer a healthy serving of vegetables to boot.

Side Dishes

Worst side:
Baked potato with butter and sour cream
400 calories
14 g fat (6 g saturated)

Roasted red potatoes (1/2 cup)
100 calories
5 g fat (1 g saturated)

The difference here is in the toppings. Add bacon and cheese to the mix, and add an extra 150 calories. Another smart sides rule: Not all salads are paragons of virtue. Greens with croutons and Italian dressing pack in 140 more calories than a serving of peas with pearl onions.

Hot Drinks
Worst hot drink:
White chocolate mocha (20 ounces)
660 calories
22 g fat (15 g saturated)
95 g sugars

Café au lait with peppermint syrup (20 ounces)
150 calories
5 g fat (3.5 g saturated)
17 g sugars

Sugary coffee concoctions are a holiday shopping staple, but the wrong one could deliver more calories than a greasy burger at your local fast food joint! Avoid mochas, lattes and cappuccinos and order a café au lait with a spurt of flavored syrup instead.

Worst dessert:
Pecan pie à la mode
810 calories
65 g fat
55 g sugars

Chocolate fondue
340 calories
10 g fat
28 g sugars

In the wide world of holiday pies, nothing is worse than a slice of pecan. Blame the filling, which is sickly-sweet sludge of corn syrup and sugar. Fondue, in comparison, is a fun and relatively healthy way to splurge after a big meal. Angel food cake makes an ideal dipper: light, low in calories and virtually fat-free. Fruit is even better, try dipping some apples, pineapple, strawberries or even bananas.

The bottom line is, no one wants to start 2011 with six extra pounds. Some simple food swaps will make holiday weight gain a thing of the past.

1 comment:

Holly said...

I'm pregnant this holiday season, which means I need to eat 300 - 500 extra calories per day for my growing baby. I'm astounded to learn that the average person eats an extra 600 calories per day between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Just think -- that's more than what a pregnant woman needs!

While I'm enjoying the freedom from having to worry too much about weight gain this time of year, I'm also trying to be conscious of making those extra calories count by eating "superfoods" that pack extra nutritional punch.