Guest blog by Dara Stieger, Registered Dietitian, MS, RD, LDN
Most Americans can pack on five to eight pounds every year between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, enjoying big family dinners and other seasonal festivities.
Sugary baked goods, butter-laden side dishes, sugar-loaded cakes and breads, and fatty main courses can make it hard to maintain your waistline, or lose weight, during the holidays.
But in fact, it can be downright easy to maintain your weight and the holiday spirit with some creativity and advance planning.
Avoid Mall Munchies
Step one: stay away from high-fat, high-calorie snacks when shopping at the mall or supermarket. Plan your shopping after mealtime, so you won't be hungry when you shop. And try to have three balanced, home-cooked meals a day, which will help you fend off snacking and overeating.
If the mall's food court is your only option for a meal on a busy day, choose healthier items such as a "create your own" salad with low-fat dressing (or olive oil and vinegar), or a slice of pizza topped with fresh vegetables.
And here's a neat exercise tip to use while you're mall hopping: Park as far from the mall entrances as you can, or enter the malls at the opposite end of your destinations. Depending on how much extra walking you can engineer into your travels, you can burn any extra 100 to 500 calories.
Be a Party Planner
The holidays are loaded with great get-togethers; sometimes several in a week. To maintain or even trim your waistline at cocktail parties, eat something healthy, yet filling before heading to the parties. This will help you cut down on or even avoid fattening party foods and snacks.
And if you're hosting your own bash, wait until the day of or day before the party to buy your groceries, even if that means missing a sale. Keeping sweets, cakes, breads, drinks, snacks, and other party foods out of the house will also keep them out of your tummy.
Also, plan your schedule so there's little as time as possible between party preparation and the arrival of guests. This will help you avoid snacking on your tempting and delicious party creations.
Remember, being the host means that you can create healthier versions of all of your favorite recipes which you, your guests and your family can enjoy without any guilt.
Skin the Bird
One holiday dinner can have over 3,000 calories-more than people should consume in a single day. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the meal. Instead of ham, roast beef, or other dark meat, reach for white meat turkey. Then peel off the skin, which harbors about 4 grams of fat, and you've shaved about 35 calories off that delicious helping.
Likewise, pass on too many starchy side dishes. Favor roasted vegetables and salads instead (especially salads without dressing already mixed in). You can also opt for low-sodium butter, low-fat dairy products, and egg whites to cut calories without cutting flavor.
The Skinny on Drinks and Desserts
Alcohol is very high in calories. Cutting back on alcoholic beverages will cut your total caloric intake. Wine or light beer may be a better choice than mixed drinks which are often high in sugar and calories. And remember, if you choose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation.
When baking sweets, use a substitute for sugar, use light butter instead of regular butter when possible, and use apple sauce instead of oil (yes, you read that right!). Top your desserts with a dollop of light whipped cream. And be sure to serve a big bowl of high fiber fruits, such as grapes, pineapples, honeydews, and strawberries.
Lastly, don't let watching what you eat get in the way of your good time. Remember that healthy options are nearly always available on the table. You just need to be alert and inventive. Make this the year that you make the best choices, and have the best, slimmest holiday season ever.