HER HEALTH: Healthy holiday eating, it can be done!

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Column by Denise Coots, registered dietitian at SSM Health/St. Mary’s Hospital

Denise Coots

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Time for gathering with friends and family, snuggling close to the fire and gaining weight. The typical American packs on five to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This added weight is not only a burden but carries with it health risks. It can also take an awfully long time to shed in the months that follow. That’s why it’s best to approach the holiday eating season with a plan. It all starts with Thanksgiving.

Often Thanksgiving is the start of 30 or more days of saying “I’ll get back to my old routine tomorrow.” We seem to drop our exercise routines, have an extra glass of egg nog, or sneak to the kitchen to nibble on leftovers. Not only does that eventually catch up to us, it also makes us feel worse the following day and the cycle continues. You get really full, feel sick and the next day you starve yourself. That can wreak havoc on your metabolism. 

Take for instance your Thanksgiving dinner. A typical meal of turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and dessert amounts to 1,500 calories or more. That’s well above the 1,200 calories some people should be eating in one day! Add in alcohol at 250 calories per mixed drink or 120 calories per glass of wine and you can see that total number rise even further. Remember, for every extra 3,500 calories you take in, you’ll gain about one pound of weight. That means just two mixed drinks a day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s would add on five and a half pounds of weight alone!

You have to be extra careful and that starts with learning the basics of healthy eating and not feeling guilty; even if you haven’t been able to sample everything on the table.  

Grandma might be cooking all day, but you can’t be guilt-ridden into eating. Your guilt will overwhelm you later because you ate all this food. Instead you should come prepared. Get up in the morning. Have breakfast and a nice lunch and portion it out. Ask grandma for a doggie bag before you sit down and portion out what you are going to eat and what you are going to take home. 

Plan on having about 3 ounces of meat, which is the size of a deck of cards. Don’t restrict yourself from eating what you like, but eat it in moderation. Don’t starve yourself beforehand; you’ll only end up eating more. Instead, eat a light meal in the morning and again before you go to Thanksgiving dinner or a holiday party and you will likely eat less.

If you’re the one throwing the party consider changing your recipes a bit. Just a little change can make a world of difference without affecting the flavor. Use less butter or sugar. Usually you can halve the sugar in desserts and no one will notice the difference.  Rather than whole milk, use skim milk. And when you’re serving meat, go heavy on the white meat and steer clear or eat less of the dark meat.

When preparing turkey, pick out a plain bird instead of a self-basting one. Remove the skin when eating. When making gravy, refrigerate the pan juices first and skim off the fat. That will save 56 grams of fat per cup of juice! As you make dressing, use less bread and substitute in more fruits and vegetables like onions, celery, cranberries and apples.  Finally, when it comes to those delicious mashed potatoes, use skim milk, garlic powder and a little Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.

Most importantly, don’t forget to exercise. If you know you’re eating more, then exercise more or increase the intensity. It’s all about intake and output. Remember that is does take work to take off those extra pounds.  But every little bit counts!

Hopefully these tips won’t deflate your enjoyment of the holidays as that is not the intent.  Enjoy the holidays, just avoid going overboard. 

Denise Coots, RD, LD, CNSC is the clinical nutrition coordinator at SSM Health, St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City. She has a passion for helping others ranging from those patients in the intensive care unit to individuals in the community with various dietary issues. For more information or assistance with developing a healthy eating plan, the registered dietitians at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital are available to help. Call 573-681-3000, ext. 6006.

Counting the calories

Unsure how many calories are packed into your favorite food?  Use the guide below:

• 6 oz ham = 300

• 6 oz white and dark turkey = 340

• ½ cup stuffing = 180

• ½ cup mashed potatoes = 150

• ½ cup gravy = 150

• ½ cup green bean casserole = 225

• ½ cup sweet potatoes = 150

• 1 dinner roll = 110

• 1 piece pumpkin pie = 180

• 1 piece apple pie      = 410

• 1 piece pecan pie     = 480

• ½ cup whipped cream = 75

• 1 mixed drink = 250

• 1 glass wine = 120

• 1 cup eggnog = 340

10 Tips to Healthier Holiday Eating

• Don’t go to parties hungry.

• Bring a healthy dish to pass.

• Limit alcohol intake to one to two drinks.

• Talk, talk, talk. The more you talk, the less you’ll eat.

• Eat fruits and vegetables … skip the sweets.

• Don’t try to lose weight during the holidays.

• Make sure to exercise – 30 minutes a day.

• Lighten the load – use healthy substitutes when baking.

• Bring a doggie bag.

• Don’t skimp on what you eat, just eat less of it.

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