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Healthier for the holidays

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GINA R. HEINE
November 21, 2007

Your New Year’s resolution more than a month from now might end up being, “Lose the 10 pounds I gained over the holidays.”


But it doesn’t have to be.


The Thanksgiving feast starts the unofficial holiday eating season that can lead to weight gain. But one big meal isn’t what leads to that gain, said Rebecca Senn, a dietician at Mercy Health System.


“It is a culmination of things, but any place we can decrease the calorie content and minimize that holiday weight gain, (then you’ll) not have to face the new year with 10 pounds to work off,” she said.


Many people don’t realize they can reduce their calorie intake by making just a few changes, she said.


“It tastes the same, and no one knows the difference,” she said.


Senn offered tips for a healthier feast:


-- Decrease the fat wherever you can. One way is to remove the fat from the gravy, which can take away 500 calories per cup.


To do this, pour all the juices and turkey drippings into a Ziploc bag sitting inside a big measuring cup. Let it sit five to 10 minutes until you see the grease/oil rise to the top. Make sure the bag is sealed, and snip a hole in a bottom corner. Drain the juice and close the hole when it gets down to the fat, which you throw away.


Then thicken the juice by boiling it with flour or cornstarch.


-- Cook stuffing outside of the turkey.


-- Sautee veggies in chicken broth as opposed to butter or margarine.


-- Position yourself away from the table of munchies. Take a small plate, but don’t sit next to the table to constantly refill.


Nuts, for example, are 700 to 900 calories a cup.


“You take a couple extra handfuls of those, before you know it … ” Senn said. “That’s a lot of times where you get those extra calories you aren’t aware of.”


-- Eat pie that has a single crust, such as pumpkin, which is much lower in calories than an apple pie because that has two crusts.


-- Sprinkle the fried onions only on top of the green bean casserole instead of inside.


-- Fill up a little before the meal on a veggie tray or salad.


-- Watch your calories from alcohol. As you drink more, you tend to not pay as much attention to how much you’re eating and drinking. Try low-calorie/calorie-free beverages such as diet soda and flavored water instead of soda.


-- If you’re eating at someone else’s home, look over everything on the table first to decide what you want.


“Sometimes, you start at one end of the serving table, and you’re halfway through, and your plate’s full,” Senn said, “which means you have to come back with a second plate. But maybe some things you picked up first you didn’t necessarily want. Look ahead of time. Think about what you want to put on your plate.”


-- Instead of letting the turkey’s tryptophan push you to the couch for an after-meal nap, stay active. Wash dishes, go for a walk or get a family activity going.


“Burn up some calories,” Senn said. “Probably not a significant amount compared to what you eat, but every little bit kind of helps.”


Healthier options for your Thanksgiving meal

Traditional food Calories


8 ounces champagne 170


6 ounces turkey, white and dark meat, with skin 345


1/4 cup gravy 30


1 cup standard stuffing 500


2 candied sweet potatoes 285


1 cup buttered steamed green beans 70


2 rolls, buttered 240


1/4 cup canned cranberry sauce 105


1 slice pecan pie, with whipped cream 520


Total 2,265

Healthier option Calories


4 ounces champagne 85


6 ounces turkey, white meat, no skin 230


1/4 cup low-fat gravy 20


1 cup low-fat stuffing 125


1 cup acorn squash 115


1 cup steamed green beans 35


2 rolls 170


1/4 cup low-sugar cranberry sauce 85


1 slice pumpkin pie 175


Total 1,040

Source: Audrey Shomos, a dietitian at Riverview Clinic.



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