By Diann Douglas
One thing we do well in the U.S. is celebrate holidays with food. Now, we are about to celebrate an exclusive American holiday, Thanksgiving, which involved a big menu at most households. And, it is only the beginning of a long stretch of eating which starts with Thanksgiving and extends into New Year’s Day. In other words, we are looking at six weeks of eating more than you normally eat and that can mean a weight gain.
A traditional holiday meal can be as much as 3,000 calories. That is more calories from a single meal than most people eat in an entire day. In addition to holiday meals, there are always baked goods and desserts at every gathering. The challenge is to enjoy the foods of the season, but not put on extra pounds.
It is possible to eat some of everything during the holidays and not take in too many calories. The key is to eat sensibly, enjoy high calorie foods, but eat smaller portions. If you are going to attend a gathering where there will be a lot of food, eat smaller amounts of food during the day to keep the total calorie intake reasonable.
Here are a few ideas from Extension Nutrition Specialists to help you avoid consuming excessive calories over the holiday stretch:
Eat moderate portions of food and keep extra servings to a minimum. Consider using a luncheon plate when eating a meal at home to help you keep servings smaller. When it’s time for your Thanksgiving meal, you can use a regular dinner plate and not feel guilty about eating extra food.
When preparing dishes, substitute low-calorie ingredients for foods high in fat or sugar. For example, low-fat sour cream can replace the traditional high fat version. Another idea is to reduce the amount of sugar in your sweet potatoes and use vanilla extract for added flavor.
If you serve appetizers while guests are waiting for the main meal, consider a fresh vegetable tray with a low fat dip instead of potato chips.
Look at your recipes and substitute reduced-fat or fat free versions of the cheeses and cream cheese.
Steam, bake or microwave vegetables rather than frying and season with herbs and spices instead of salt.
Replace whole milk and cream with low-fat or skim milk in puddings, soups and baked products.
Lighten up your holiday baked goods by cutting the amount of sugar in your recipes by one quarter.
To help reduce cholesterol, substitute egg whites in recipes calling for whole eggs. Use two egg whites in place of each whole egg in baked products.
Something else you need to schedule in is time for physical activity to help burn off extra calories you consume. Take a 15 minute walk during your lunch hour. Every step counts, so park further out in the parking lot when you go to the store. Household chores and yard work will also burn extra calories.
Sensible eating and staying physically active during the holiday season will keep your weight in check and the extra pounds off. For more information on food and nutrition contact the Madison County Extension Service.
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