Written for the River Current publication; December 12, 2013
Avoid holiday weight gain, and still enjoy the feast? Gorging on your favorite holiday foods can widen your waistline, but they don't have to spell dietary disaster. In fact, some of your guiltiest pleasures may be good for you. At this time of year, you can hardly escape hearing that Americans gain about 5 pounds during the holidays.
True, some people probably pack on that much, or more, with holiday foods. For the rest of us, the weight increase is actually a lot less, however. That's the conclusion from a New England Journal of Medicine study, which found most people gained about a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
But that's no reason to eat with wild abandon during the holidays. Putting on a pound or so every year makes a big difference when you never get around to losing those extra pounds. In a decade's time, the effects of nibbling a few cookies here and there may easily add 10 pounds to your frame. The trick is to minimize the damage from holiday foods and have fun at the same time.
Eating regular meals and snacks every day makes it easier to resist overdoing it at festive events. When you occasionally skimp on meals because you're busy shopping, wrapping, and baking, nosh on a protein-packed snack, such as low-fat yogurt or reduced-fat cheese, to blunt your hunger before gathering with family or friends.
Sure, they taste great and they tempt you to eat too much, but it rarely pays to avoid favorite holiday foods. Depriving yourself of a holiday treat can backfire and make you crave the food even more, leading to overeating. Pick what to splurge on rather than mindlessly nibbling on any party food that comes your way. Knowing the calorie counts of holiday foods may stop you from reaching for another ladle of gravy, a second piece of cheesecake, or another cup of eggnog.
A few small tricks to curbing caloric intake include: taking smaller portions (I’m a big fan of using smaller plates…the larger the plate, the higher some tend to pile the food). Since the first few bites of any food provide the most pleasure; once you've finished your treat, fight the urge for more. Sit far from buffet tables, candy dishes, and cookie-laden platters. Excuse yourself from the dinner table when finished eating. Keep your mouth busy by talking with friends and family…lol, this is an easy one for me! Chew gum or a sugarless breath mint to dissuade further snacking. If you're able, brush your teeth; the taste of toothpaste dulls taste buds.
The whole secret is not to take the joy out of the holiday while watching calories…eat wisely and let the company of friends and family fill you up, rather than that second piece of pie!
Cranberry VinaigretteThis is a stunning salad dressing that I served at a holiday dinner earlier this month. Bright, bold and a beautiful color! Serve over a bed of organic mixed greens with a vibrant red apple, dried cranberries and toasted pecans.
2/3 cup fresh cranberries (or frozen cranberries)1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1.Combine cranberries, sugar, and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the cranberries pop, about 5-10 minutes.
2.Remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the mustard and orange juice and blend to combine. With the motor running, stream in the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.