Making Your Way Through the Holidays Without Guilt (Or Added Pounds)
From the golden, roasted turkey to the buttery mashed potatoes to the decorated cookies, the holiday season is a festival of favorite family foods. For many though, it’s also a guilt-ridden, downward spiral of diminishing willpower and unhealthy, unwanted pounds.
“But is needn’t be that way,” says Betsy Bowersox, M.S., R.D., a member of the American Institute of Wine & Food’s “Resetting the American Table” movement. “All foods can fit in a quality diet, and that includes holiday delicacies.
“The secret is balance over a several day period,” she says. “Look back and assess your diet over the past few days. Were you on the party circuit last weekend? Then look ahead. Are there celebrations looming?”
You can make up for a feast of rich, higher-fat foods with lighter, lower-fat meals for the next couple of days. Or plan for tomorrow night’s party with a low-calorie, low-fat breakfast and lunch.
“Most important, don’t panic or feel guilty if your diet seems to have gotten out of hand. When you balance [your intake] over several days, you’ve got the time to regain control.” Bowersox also advises making physical activity a regular habit as well. Beyond burning calories, exercise is essential for good health and well-being.
Bowersox offers several techniques to help you and your family emerge from the holidays in the same shape you are now, maybe even better. When going to a party:
- Have a salad, light soup or fruit before leaving home.
- Select only “special” or favorite foods at a holiday buffet – leave standard fare like potato chips, nuts and rolls for the other guests.
- Space the party beverages – have a glass of sparkling water after a glass of wine or cup of eggnog.
When the party is at your house and you’re preparing the food:
- Offer low-fat hor d’oeuvres such as raw veggies and yogurt dip.
- Spoon off clear fat before making gravy.
- Grate hard cheeses instead of slicing them – you’ll use less.
- Substitute juice, wine or mineral water for part of the oil in salad dressings.
- When making sauces, add butter last, whisking in a tablespoon or less for smoothness and buttery flavor.
- Make a crustless pumpkin pie.
“Experiment to see what is acceptable to your taste, but don’t sacrifice a family-favorite holiday dish,” Bowersox says. “Traditional foods – passed on through generations — are an important part of the holidays. These foods are a gift and restriction or omission shouldn’t be part of the gift-giving. Practice portion control instead. A smaller serving of the real thing can be very satisfying.” That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t introduce new, healthier traditions.