Saturday, November 5, 2011


The average person gains approximately five to seven pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Holiday season festivities often include large family meals, special parties and additional treats and drinks. 
Below is a list of ideas to reduce the odds of gaining holiday weight and staying within your diet prescription:

1. Limit your choices. People consume more calories when offered a larger variety of foods – such as cookies, desserts, candies, etc. than if they had only one choice.

Suggestion: Select only one food item from each category when at a party – for example: only one type of appetizer, one type of dessert, one type of beverage.

2. Consume water rich and “heavy” foods. Researchers have determined that your brain will monitor the amount of food you eat by the weight of the food you eat. Example, it is easy to consume 300 calories of crackers or chips (salty and fatty as well!) and still be hungry – but 300 calories of a heavy food – such as pears or apples would be more satisfying – and usually more satisfying before the entire 300 calories is consumed.

Suggestion: At parties or holiday meals, select the heavier foods such as fruits and vegetables over the lightweight and usually higher sodium snack type items.

3. Think small. In cave-man days, people were not sure when the next meal would be available and therefore, ate as much as possible at a meal. Today, the food supply is ample – so to avoid the all-you-can-eat temptation, select a smaller plate.

Suggestion: Use smaller plates, select smaller servings – being able to enjoy each food item, but avoid excess calories. To avoid feeling deprived, small “tastes” of dishes that are otherwise typically restricted on your diet are easier to manage when using a small or appetizer sized plate.

4. Keep moving. Continue your exercise habits during the busy holiday season. It will help to avoid the holiday weight gain, will reduce the amount of stress (another ingredient during the holidays) and help reduce your appetite.

Suggestion: Schedule your exercise habits into your day. If a day is missed, re-start the next day – do not wait until the “end of the holiday season.” Even light exercise, if you are low on energy, can help lift your mood and curtail overeating.

5. Move before munching. Exercise can help curb your appetite. One research project revealed that persons who exercised before eating actually ate less than those persons who did not exercise at all.

Suggestion: Try to catch a quick walk prior to a social gathering.

6. Drink water before dining. After exercising and/or before attending a social function, drink water within your fluid limits, if you have a fluid restriction.

Suggestion: Drink a glass or two of water before attending a social event or a holiday meal.

7. Limit party drinks. Party beverages can contribute a large number of calories to the day’s total. For example: one cup of eggnog- 350 calories, 12 oz. soda – 150 calories, one cup of punch – 100 calories. Depending on your specific nutrition needs, sparkling apple juice or a cranberry juice cocktail may be a terrific alternative.

Suggestion: Bring a non-caloric sparkling water to the celebration – possibly alternating a holiday beverage with a non-caloric soda or water.

By trying as many of these ideas as possible, you may be able to avoid the additional seven pounds during the holiday season. If the seven pounds are not gained, that is seven pounds you won’t have to “lose” in January. And your heart, kidneys, as well as back, knees and hips will be much happier…what a terrific holiday gift to yourself!

Doing the cooking this year? Here are some tips for modifying recipes for your holiday (and everyday) meals:

1. Substitute high sodium ingredients with herbs, spices and low sodium sauces and condiments.

2. Buy low sodium(Organic) soups (check for potassium content) or better yet, make your own soup broth using soup bones and herb seasonings.

3. Don’t use salt substitutes like No-Salt , Nu-Salt or Lite Salt because they are very high in potassium. Herb mixtures like Mrs. Dash are fine.

4. Use fresh (Organic)fruits and vegetables as often as possible. When you use canned or frozen foods, make sure they are lower in salt.

5. Use Good Fats vs Bad Fats :

Let's start with the good guys -- the unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Both mono- and polyunsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation and used to replace saturated or trans fats, can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Polyunsaturated fats, found mostly in vegetable oils,help lower both blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels -- especially when you substitute them for saturated fats. One type of polyunsaturated fat is omega-3 fatty acids, whose potential heart-health benefits have gotten a lot of attention.
Omega-3s are found in fatty fish (salmon, trout, catfish, mackerel), as well as flaxseed and walnuts.

The other "good guy" unsaturated fats are monounsaturated fats, thought to reduce the risk of heart disease. Mediterranean countries consume lots of these -- primarily in the form of olive oil -- and this dietary component is credited with the low levels of heart disease in those countries.
Monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but solidify if refrigerated. These heart-healthy fats are typically a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, a nutrient often lacking in American diets. They can be found in olives; avocados; hazelnuts; almonds; Brazil nuts; cashews; sesame seeds; pumpkin seeds; and olive, canola, and peanut oils.
Relative to other oils, canola (made from the seeds of a yellow-flowered plant) and olive oils are rich in monounsaturated fats—the kind that help reduce “unhealthy” LDL cholesterol and boost “healthy” HDL cholesterol. But new research suggests that virgin (and extra-virgin) olive oils—those produced purely by mechanically pressing the oil from olives, with no chemical processing—have an edge: antioxidants called polyphenols. Naturally found in olives (in red wine and green tea too), polyphenols mop up free radicals before they can oxidize LDL (oxidation makes LDL even more damaging to arteries).

Two fats are considered "bad": Trans fatty acids and saturated fat.
 Saturated fat comes from animal sources of food and is solid at room temperature. Those fats raise your LDL cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. Minimize around the holidays (Who could avoid chocolate) then decrease or eliminate saturated fats from your diet. Some common sources of saturated fats are fast foods, butter, cheese, ice cream, fried foods, visible fat on meat, poultry skin, whole milk, cream and chocolate.

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