COFFEE COUNTY FARM BUREAU WOMEN Joan Morton For most of us, the holidays mean eating lots more calories than the normal. It is not just Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, but all the parties and snacks that follow. It’s not just those two days but the many extra calories gained continually, that add up. That’s what’s really causing that holiday weight gain. Even though you exercise on a regular basis, “it does not make much difference, in taking off the gain”, according to Jamie A. Cooper, PhD at the University of Georgia. But you can enjoy the holiday season more if you plan ahead and make smarter choices so you will stress less and then just focus on the festivities. Holiday parties don’t have to be a free-for-all. Here are some suggestions to help you navigate everything from the buffet to the dessert tray without sabotaging your weight:
- Never go on an empty stomach. Having a small snack that contains fiber and protein—like a handful of nuts, or even a piece of fruit before you go out to a party—stabilizes your blood sugar and takes the edge off hunger. Or reach for some satisfying lean protein, fiber, and healthy fat, like yogurt with granola and fruit, so you’ll be less enticed by the buffet.
- Plan ahead. Scan all of the offerings before you pick up a plate, then choose the few specialties that you don’t get to enjoy every day. Also, when you contribute something to a holiday potluck, make sure it is healthy so you’re sure to have a good option.
- Use a salad plate. This makes less, look like more. Researchers at Cornell University have found that you can trick your brain into believing you’re eating plentiful amounts, simply by putting your healthy picks on a smaller plate.
- Be a Buffet ninja. A good rule to follow “one trip, one plate, no tower” is given by dietician Kristen Kilpatrick, MS, RD, LM, manager of the wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, Cooking Light, December 2016, suggests beginning at the veggies tray. Make one pass at the buffet, using one salad plate and no stacking. Then step away.
- Take treats to go. Sometimes we eat out of obligation when someone is offering a treat, especially if it’s homemade or a family recipe. Say, thank you, that’s so nice, I’m not hungry now; but I’ll save it for later. Then take it home and freeze it. You’re not throwing it away, you’re not saying no, you’re not insulting anyone, and you can still try it another time.
- Shift your perspective. “The holidays are about connecting with people. It’s not just about eating”, says Dawn Lerman, MA, a nutrition consultant at Cooking Light, December, 2016.
Consumer Reports, December 2016, did a survey on party appetizers at four major supermarkets: Costco, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Whole Foods. They were looking for the best tasting and most nutritious. Their criteria for a healthy snack (fewer than 200 calories, fewer than 5 grams fat, and fewer than 480 milligrams of sodium). The following eight foods stood out for scoring “very good” on flavor and nutrition:
- Seapak Butterfly Shrimp (31 calories per piece)
- Whole Foods Market Spinach and Cheese Spanakopita (55 calories per piece)
- Trader Joe’s Chicken Gyoza Potstickers (29 calories per piece}
- Saffron Road Crispy Samosas with Vegetables (45 calories per piece)
- Phillips Seafood Restaurants Crab Cake Minis (32 calories per piece)
- Whole Foods Market Artichoke, Kale and Swiss Chard Bites (23 calories per piece)
- Bibigo Organic Potstickers (32 calories per piece)
- Saffron Road Crispy Samosas with Saag Paneer (40 calories per piece)
I have also found a super snack mix that is very low in calories. This would be great for eating or sharing. It comes from Cooking Light, December 2016. Sesame-Soy Nut and Pretzel Mix 1 cup unsalted miniature pretzels 1 cup whole wheat cereal squares (like Chex) ¾ cup wasabi peas 2/3 cup unsalted roasted cashew halves 2 tablespoons canola oil 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp ground ginger ¼ tsp ground red pepper 4 cups of unsalted air-popped popcorn Pre-heat oven to 250 deg. F Combine the pretzels, peas, cereal, and cashews in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients (except popcorn) stirring with a whisk. Drizzle oil mixture over pretzel mixture; toss to coat. Add popcorn; toss. Spread popcorn mixture in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes. Cool. Serves eight. Remember, popcorn is low in calories, a great fiber food and it’s sugar free. You and your guest can munch away to your heart’s desire. Enjoy the season by planning ahead and by using lighter recipes when hosting. Merry Christmas.