By Anne Danahy, RD, Nutritionist, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates
The holidays wouldn’t be the same without our traditional comfort foods, sweet treats, and calorie-laden beverages tempting us at every party. With all of these holiday treats, it’s no wonder that we all begin the New Year with new resolutions and a few pounds heavier. But the holidays and weight gain don’t have to be synonymous as long as you do some advance planning and make smart choices this holiday season.
Below are a few tips to help you make healthier choices at holiday gatherings:
- Eat breakfast. Eating a balanced, healthy meal before the food comes out makes it much easier to say NO to high fat appetizers like cheese and crackers or creamy artichoke dip, and YES to the shrimp cocktail and veggie platter. Average savings: 400 calories.
- Alternate your spirits with a calorie free beverage. Calories from wine, beer, or any alcoholic drink can add up, so alternate with a glass of seltzer or diet soda. Average savings per drink: 150 calories.
- Start with soup. Broth based soups like vegetable or turkey noodle are low in calories and help you to fill up faster, which means you probably won’t need seconds (or thirds) on your main meal. Average savings: varies
- Choose white meat over dark, and skip the skin – it’s all fat. Turkey meat is a lean protein overall, but choosing the breast without skin makes it even healthier. Average savings: 50 calories per 4oz portion.
- Take just one scoop less of starches like mashed potatoes, stuffing or sweet potatoes. These 3 foods contribute most of the calories for holiday dinners, so cutting back just a bit on portions here can really make a difference. Average savings: at least 80-100 calories per ¼ cup scoop for each.
- Load up on veggies. Most vegetables have only 25 calories per ½ cup serving, not to mention they’re good for you, so this one is a no- brainer. Try to take at least ½ plate of vegetables from both salads and cooked vegetables to make your plate healthier, and help you fill you up faster. See #2 above. Average savings: varies.
- Choose your dessert wisely. A slice of pumpkin pie (300 calories) has fewer calories than apple (400 calories), and way less than pecan (500 calories). Or maybe just a cookie would do (50 calories), so choose wisely. If you really love it, have it, but split it with someone.
- Take a brisk walk after dinner, instead of a nap. Average calories burned: 200 for a 20-minute walk.