Stuff the Turkey, Not Yourself

HOUSTON (Dec 22, 2010) – Holiday celebrations mean plenty of cooking and eating high-calorie foods and drinks — cakes, casseroles, and egg nog. Enjoying tempting treats could have you tipping the scale before the new year if you’re not careful. But, a great tasting, lower-calorie holiday meal is possible with a little bit of planning and willpower.

 “It’s extremely easy to overeat during the holidays, but eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to pass up your favorite foods,” says Ann Smith Barnes, MD, medical director, Weight Management Services and Disease Prevention, Harris County Hospital District. “Balance is the key.”

According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat from snacking and eating a traditional holiday dinner with turkey and all the trimmings.

By making small changes in your recipes and eating habits, you can avoid holiday weight gain. Barnes offers the following tips:

  • Cook lower calorie versions of the foods you love. Go for baked sweet potatoes instead of the traditional whipped sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Make macaroni and cheese with whole wheat pasta – it still tastes delicious and the fiber will make you feel full.
  • Leave out the sauces in traditional casseroles. For example, instead of green bean casserole, cook fresh green beans and, instead of broccoli and rice casserole, prepare steamed broccoli without the cheese or with a small amount of reduced fat cheese.
  • Use smaller plates and make sure you can see your plate under your food. Fill half of the plate with vegetables.
  • Practice portion control. Don’t feel like you have to try everything on the buffet. Instead, try a small spoonful of the foods you love.
  • Skip second helpings.
  • Pick and choose. If you love pecan pie, don’t deprive yourself. Eat a small piece, but forgo another high-calorie food.
  • Choose wheat bread over white bread or breads with honey or maple.
  • Drink water instead of soft drinks or fruit punch. And, if you consume alcohol, do so in moderation to avoid adding calories. 
  • Eat a small snack like cereal, a sandwich, salad or yogurt before dinner to be less hungry and better able to control portions.

“Enjoying the holiday bounty without the guilt is possible with a little strategy,” Barnes says. “Taking charge of your health by making small adjustments can lead you into the new year without the extra pounds.”



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