’tis the season for holiday eating strategies

by Sandy Todd Webster on Oct 17, 2011

Food for Thought

No matter what medium you use most—Web, TV, radio or the printed word—it’s hard to ignore that ’tis the season of chestnuts roasting, geese-a-gettin’-fat, maids-a-milking and sugar plums dancing. Try as we might, during the holidays it’s challenging to stay mindful of the quantity and type of calories we are consuming; there are just so many overt promptings to indulge.

Whether the occasion is Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or New Year’s Eve/Day, you can steer safely over the river and through the woods with the following commonsense tips:

  • The keys to navigating most celebratory groaning boards without the groan are portion control and optimized selection from a variety of food groups.
  • Drink a large glass of water just before a big holiday dinner. If you are hosting, serve a soup course first. The warm liquid gives a feeling of satiety and may help you and your guests eat less.
  • Use a smaller plate.
  • Cover most of your plate with vegetables and salad.
  • Keep your turkey portion to no more than 5–6½ ounces. A traditional dish at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, turkey is a great lean protein, but don’t go overboard.
  • Avoid candied yams. Instead, try yams baked with minimal
  • condiments or whipped with straightforward seasonings and chicken broth in lieu of butter and milk. Yams are a wonderful source of beta carotene and fiber.
  • Keep stuffing portions small. The family stuffing recipe is a favorite and not to be missed, but a small taste to take you down memory lane is probably plenty. Proceed with caution, as this dish often contains bacon drippings, butter, a lot of sodium and other self-defeating ingredients. Better bet: Offer to bring an alternative like a salad or a plate of crudités with a Greek yogurt-based dip.
  • Avoid mashed potatoes if you do not know what is in them; they often have cream, butter and salt lurking within. If you are making the dish yourself, try substituting chicken broth and low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt as whipping agents.
  • Instead of watching football all day, start a tradition of having family and friends gather on the lawn before or after the big meal to toss the football around, or go for a long walk in the neighborhood. Kids of all ages will enjoy the activity.
  • Lighten your eggnog calorie load by getting low-fat or fat-free versions—and leave out the spirits.
  • Taste the home-baked goodness of your favorite candies, cookies, pies and sweets, but take just a taste and really savor the flavors.
  • Tone down alcohol consumption to cut calories, which can add up fast when you’re drinking them.
  • Set a good example for kids by leaving Santa a fresh plate of fruit instead of traditional cookies and milk.
  • Oy vey! Don’t underestimate the Hanukkah table, which is full of rich, heavy foods, including brisket, cheeses, latkes (fried potato pancakes), jelly-filled doughnuts and other sweet treats. Offer to make a lighter version of one of these dishes. Mostly, be careful and have a solid eating strategy before you get in too deep!

Susan Wuesthoff

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.