Happy Holidays!

{This is a blog post from the last two Thanksgivings but guests have found it useful in years past. I also told quite a few guests they could expect some tips for navigating the holidays on the blog this month. I hope this helps!}

With Thanksgiving this week as well as Christmas right around the corner, some of you may be worried about how to fit it all in with your weight loss goals. The important thing to remember is PORTION SIZES. I really feel like holidays should be filled with yummy foods without guilt. If you want the pie, eat the pie. If you want the potatoes, eat the potatoes. Just be sure to watch the amount. Also, decide if it is worth it. Everyday goodies like store bought cookies or crackers may not be what you want to splurge on. Instead, save room for your Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie that may only come once a year!

Here are the Facts:
Nutritional Facts for Traditional Holiday Foods

Turkey, 4 oz= 130 calories, 5 g fat
Glazed Baked Ham, 4 oz= 140 calories, 4 g fat
Gravy, 1/4 cup= 50 calories, 2 g fat
Potatoes, mashed, 1 cup= 250 calories, 9 g fat
Sweet potatoes, mashed, 1 cup= 258 calories, 1 g fat
Stuffing, 1/2 cup= 180 calories, 9 g fat
Green Bean Casserole, 3/4 cup= 160 calories, 10 g fat
Cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup= 110 calories, 0 g fat
Roll, 1 small= 120 calories, 1 g fat
Egg Nog, 1 cup= 360 calories, 20 g fat
Gingerbread cookie, 1 small= 190 calories, 3 g fat
Sugar cookie, 1 small= 165 calories, 9 g fat
Fudge, 1 oz= 140 calories, 4 g fat
Pecan pie, 1/8th of 9” pie= 508 calories, 29 g fat
Apple pie, 1/8th of 9” pie= 400 calories, 20 g fat
Pumpkin pie, 1/8th of 9” pie= 316 calories, 14 g fat
Fruit cake, 2 inch square = 140 calories, 4 g fat


Here is a sample meal for 800 calories. You can adjust if you would like to eat less but this is a reasonable amount for a holiday meal.

4 oz Turkey = 130 calories
1/2 cup Mashed Potatoes = 125 calories
2 tbsp Gravy = 25 calories
1/2 cup Stuffing = 180 calories
1 small Roll = 120 calories
2 tbsp Cranberry Sauce = 60 calories
1/2 slice pumpkin pie = 160 calories

While I don’t believe in sacrificing on holidays, you should be aware that the average holiday dinner alone can have about 3,000 calories and most people will also munch away another 1,500 from appetizers and drinks before the meal even starts. Combined, that will be about 4,500 calories, which is more than 2 1/4 times the average daily calorie intake and almost 3 1/2 times the fat. In fact, the average person may eat enough fat in one holiday meal to equal three sticks of butter! Here are a few tips to help you stay a bit more on track.

1. Don’t skip meals! If you have learned nothing else from me, I hope you will at least do that. Starving yourself will result in a lower metabolic rate and will make you ravenous for food which will result in eating more than you may have planned. (Remember the hunger scale and don’t get below a “3”!)

2. Start meals with a salad, veggies or a broth based soup. Research shows when meals are started with high volume, low calorie foods such as these, people tend to eat 12% less calories than they otherwise would have.

3. Eat lower fat and reduced calorie foods for the days in advance of the holiday feast and for the days after.

4. Build your plate to be 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 lean proteins and 1/4 whole grains. Remember those balanced meals!

5. Avoid recreational eating. While some foods are more calorie-dense than others, no food will make you gain weight unless you eat too much of it. At parties and holiday dinners, people tend to eat (or keep eating) beyond their body’s physical hunger simply because food is there and eating is a “social thing.” (Remember the hunger scale!) To avoid recreational eating, consciously make one plate of the foods you really want. Eat it slowly and enjoy it. When you’re done, pop a mint or stick of gum in your mouth, get a tall glass of water and sip on it throughout the night. Position yourself away from the food as well.

6. Prepare for handling your worst temptations; if you want a piece of pumpkin pie, tell yourself you can have some and just watch the portion size. Remember, telling yourself you can’t or shouldn’t could lead to preoccupation and binges with that particular food.

7. If cooking, provide low-fat, low-calorie foods or ask if you can bring a side dish. You can cut back on fat by 1/2 and sugar by 1/3 and still get good results when cooking or baking. Roasting root vegetables can make a great healthy side dish. Make stuffing with wild rice or whole grain bread. Take the skin of the turkey breast. Mash cauliflower instead of potatoes. Provide a nice tray of fresh veggies and dip. Bring whole grain dinner rolls. Limit condiments, sauces and gravies. All of these will add up!

8. Make traditions with family and friends that have nothing to do with food. Take a walk, play games, or compete in a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Bowl! Celebrate what the holidays are really about!

9. Remember that the holidays are truly only 3 days, Thanksgiving, Christmas (or Kwanzaa or Chanukah which is 8 days) and New Year’s. Three days of indulging a little is not enough to do too much damage. It is the vicious cycle of not enough exercise and too many calories for the 3 or 4 months during the holidays that causes weight gain during this time of year.

10. Sign up for a 5K or fitness walk to keep your mind focused on fitness goals. Keep up with your exercise during the holidays and try to be even more active to offset the extra calories.

11. Limit alcoholic, carbonated and sugary beverages. Have one if you must and then switch to water. Remember, it is easy to overdo on calories in liquid form.

12. Keep minimal snacks and goodies on hand. Only bake enough to give away or for a party. Out of sight, out of mind!

13. And finally, it may be more realistic to focus on weight maintenance rather than weight loss during the holidays. If you can continue to lose weight that is great but don’t give yourself unrealistic expectations.

What holiday tricks work for you?
…and above all, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Emily Fonnesbeck RD,CD