You can eat right and avoid holiday weight gain

Richard Bogren  |  12/4/2009 11:21:26 PM

News Release Distributed 12/04/09

If you’re one of the many Americans who face the holiday season with some fear of gaining weight, the good news is that although many people gain weight from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, research suggests that the gain will probably be only 1 pound, not 5, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

The bad news, she adds, is that most people likely will keep that pound during the coming year.

With the average weight gain for most Americans at 1 to 2 pounds a year, Reames offers these tips to help you avoid putting on pounds during the holidays:

– Be realistic. You don't have to lose weight that you don't gain. Instead of trying to lose weight over the holidays, strive to maintain your weight.

– Be selective. Think about what foods you really want to eat, which ones you will just sample and which ones you will skip.

– Watch portion sizes. Three ounces lean meat, chicken or fish measure up to the size of a deck of cards or a checkbook. Check the cooked weight of your turkey portion with a food scale if you have one.

A teaspoon of margarine is the size of the tip of your thumb to the first joint. One cup of mashed potatoes is a tennis ball; one-half cup is half a tennis ball. One-half cup of vegetables is the size of a light bulb.

– Eat a light, nutritious snack such as soup, fruit or cereal before going to a party to help curb hunger and make better choices.

If you have two parties to attend, choose small portions at each.

To avoid nibbling on food without thinking about it, move away from the food table after filling your plate.

– Eat foods with high water content – salad, soup, fruits and vegetables. These offer a way to cut back on calories and help you feel full and satisfied.

– Try to eat a large salad before meals.

– Aim for making vegetables take up half the room on your plate.

– Don't deprive yourself of your favorites. Make it a balancing act. Cut the salad dressing and go for a small slice of chocolate mousse pie. Or balance your favorites with low‑calorie foods, such as vegetables with a small amount of dip or boiled shrimp with lemon.

– Eat slowly and savor each delicious bite of food. This will help prevent overeating.

– If you're in charge of the menu or preparing items for the meal, make it healthfully delicious – and low-calorie, too.

– When making recipes, substitute lower-fat ingredients for higher-fat ingredients. Using fat-free or low-fat sour cream or cream cheese in dessert recipes is a great way to enjoy holiday favorites that taste delicious but are much lower in fat and calories.

For stuffing, substituting fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth and skim milk for butter or other fat will keep the stuffing moist.

Use skim milk or evaporated skim milk when preparing mashed potatoes. Use herbs rather than salt to flavor.

For holiday gravy, remove the fat from gravy using a fat separator or refrigerate the food overnight and skim off the hardened fat.

Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene, the plant source of vitamin A. Bake sweet potatoes and top them with cinnamon and nutmeg. If you want extra sweetness, add a small amount of orange or pineapple juice or a sprinkle of artificial sweetener instead of marshmallows and sugar.

For additional information about eating healthfully using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid, contact the LSU AgCenter office in your parish.

Rick Bogren

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