It’s coming. Everyone knows it and is trying not to think about
it just yet, but it will soon arrive: the holiday season, with all
its delectable foods and heavenly delights. Diets everywhere are in
It’s coming. Everyone knows it and is trying not to think about it just yet, but it will soon arrive: the holiday season, with all its delectable foods and heavenly delights. Diets everywhere are in mortal peril.
“All adults have a little kid inside them, and they want their treats during the holidays. And the treats are what makes (the holidays) a celebration,” said Debra Potosky, a registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente Santa Teresa Medical Center. “But you have to have a battle plan.”
Acknowledging that calorie consumption likely will go up during this time of year, dieters and nondieters alike can compensate by paying extra attention to portion sizes and exercising more, Potosky said.
“We shouldn’t avoid the goodies and feel deprived,” she explained. “Allow yourself a certain amount of calories to ‘spend’ on whatever, and support the goodies with a healthy diet.”
Holiday specialty foods, such as eggnog and candy cane-flavored ice cream, are generally available only during this season and are the downfall of many. Because people haven’t enjoyed the goodies for a year, they might feel they have “permission” to eat them, Potosky said.
But it’s possible to enjoy the delectable foods without going overboard. For example, if you’re at a buffet, eat one serving of your favorite dessert instead of several smaller servings of many different desserts that you might not enjoy as much as your favorite.
If you’re unsure about what a healthy diet means for you on an individual basis, the United States Department of Agriculture developed a revised set of guidelines in January that considers age, gender and daily exercise and creates a food pyramid based on the information. The model provides a recommended allotment of calories to “spend” on fats and sugars – information that can be used to plan a healthy holiday season. The Web site, www.mypyramind.gov, also has links to daily food worksheets and diet tips.
Lynn Kjelson, a nutritionist at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, recommends simply trying to maintain your weight rather than trying to lose weight.
“Be realistic. Strive to maintain. Focus on portion control, balance and being choosy,” Kjelson said.
To help achieve diet goals, avoid turning a one-day holiday, such as Thanksgiving, into a four-day eating event.
“If you blow your diet on a piece of pie, don’t give up,” Kjelson said. “Having a piece of pie is OK. Just compensate by not eating that (piece of) bread or by doing extra activity.”
Also watch out for hidden calories, particularly in alcoholic drinks, Potosky said.
“One serving of red wine is not a big, full glass,” Potosky said. “It’s a half a cup for women, one cup for men.”
Mixed drinks can also be a major pitfall, Potosky said, because one shot of alcohol has 150 calories, and a mixer – such as a regular soda – contains another 150 calories.
Dieters should consider carefully how they “spend” their goody calories, Potosky said. Although certain foods might appear innocent, they can wreak havoc on the waistline.
“Watch out for things that are extremely high in calories for small portions,” she said. “Pecan pie is a scary one. With the nuts, the sugar and all the other stuff, it’s about 500 calories for one-eighth of a 9-inch pie.”
Jell-O salads are often a high-calorie food that some people mistake for being low-calorie, Kjelson said.
“They’ve generally got nuts and are mixed with nuts or mayo,” she said. “They have tons of hidden calories.”
Kjelson suggests these diet tips to help keep you on track:
• Never skip a meal to conserve calories. It likely will cause you to overeat.
• Eat something before you go to a party or family gathering, so you aren’t as hungry when you’re presented with endless options for food.
• When at a holiday party, eat from the veggie tray and go light on the dip.
• Split your dessert with someone.
• For a low-fat dip try using salsa, or substitute low-fat or nonfat sour cream or yogurt in your recipes.
• Bake, roast or broil foods instead of frying, and keep oil and butter to a minimum.
• Serve dressings or sauces on the side.