By Valentina Palladino
Having a Thanksgiving 2.0? Preparing leftovers? Make sure you don’t make yesterday’s mistakes again today, next week, and all season long!
I’m obsessed with the holidays, mainly because I’m obsessed with food. Of course, I love the feeling of leaving school, seeing my family, and having a clean shower at home, but everything seems all the more sweet when good food is involved. However, all those rich meals and delicious desserts pose a slight problem: possible weight gain. It’s no secret that the holidays can be a dangerous time of the year for your health – people indulge too much and later face the consequences on their waistlines. Stories of gaining five to seven pounds over the holidays spread like wildfire, but research shows that the nightmare isn’t as drastic as people think.
According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, people gain only one pound on average over the holiday months. However, the study also found that those who gain that extra pound or two rarely ever lose it, contributing to progressive weight gain during adulthood.
Where are those stories about five to seven pounds coming from, then? The Journal published a second study, which found that those who are overweight to begin with gain more weight on average during the holidays than those of normal weights. “Weight gain was greater among individuals who were overweight or obese, and 14 percent gained more than 2.3 kg (5 lb),” the study stated.
College students are definitely not immune from packing on those pounds during the holidays. Researchers at The University of Oklahoma studied a group of 94 students, weighing them the day before Thanksgiving and again two weeks later. Students with normal weights gained one pound on average, and heavier students gained two pounds on average. Holiday eating habits can contribute to weight issues and the threat of obesity later in life, especially considering those holiday pounds are rarely shed in the coming new year.
But it’s all so damn tempting – trust me, I know! After losing 60 pounds over the course of a year and a half, I find the holidays to be a challenging time in terms of keeping up my healthy eating patterns. Cooks, eaters, and drinkers never fear! There are a ton of tips and tricks you can follow to avoid becoming a holiday heavyweight and still enjoy all the holiday foods you love!
When you’re eating…
Watch the liquid calories – A glass of wine or champagne won’t harm you, but a fourth, fifth or sixth could. Alcohol, eggnog, and other holiday drinks are loaded with sneaky calories and sugar, not to mention that alcohol can lower inhibitions and lead you to overindulge even more. Be mindful and watch your intake of special drinks.
Don’t skip meals – Not eating before a big meal will tell your body it’s okay to go crazy and have second or third helping. Maintain your regular eating schedule and eat normal meals. If you want to save yourself some calories before a large holiday meal, choose low-fat, high-fiber snacks to keep you satisfied, feeling full, and curb your temptation to be a ravenous eater later on.
Make time for exercise – Some of the best ways to fit in exercise over the holidays are by spending time with your family and friends. Play a family game of football before the big Thanksgiving meal or have a snowball fight with your friends on Christmas Eve. Even just setting time aside to take a 20-minute walk around your neighborhood to check out the decorations on people’s houses can help you offset those extra calories.
When you’re cooking…
Choose the light side – Light meat turkey has less fat and calories than dark meat turkey. In a comparison on FitSugar.com, a 3.5 ounce serving of white meat without skin has 156 calories and 3.2 grams of fat, whereas the same serving of dark meat without skin has 186 calories and 7.2 grams of fat. Go for the light meat when possible, but dark meat in moderation is just fine.
Skim that gravy – Put your gravy in the refrigerator for a while and the fat will harden. Skim the fat off to significantly cut down its calories. According to the California Pacific Medical Center, this trick saves you a hefty 56 gm of fat per cup of gravy!
Cut the fat with fruit – Substitute an equal part of fruit puree, such as applesauce or prunes, for butter or oil when baking holiday treats. The puree will add moisture and tenderness to muffins, breads, and cupcakes, but without the added fat! And no, your chocolate chip cookies and fudge brownies will not taste like applesauce when you’re done.
Bring the healthier dish – Preparing a dish that you know is made healthy will help you and others gain an edge over the typical, rich holiday foods. Next time you go to a family gathering and bring a dish, prepare the food with low-fat, healthy ingredients and provide everyone with a healthy alternative. They won’t know the difference!