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Tips for a Healthy, Happy Holiday Season - Goal: Damage Control

November 14, 2016

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Holidays are a great time of the year when we look forward to enjoying time with family, friends and tables filled with traditional foods, festive parties and tempting gifts of goodies. Of course giving up on all these joy-filled days ahead is not an option- but making some smart choices can be.

Dr. Nagi B Kumar
Nagi B Kumar,  Ph.D. Professor, Senior Member, Director, Cancer Chemoprevention

Although it was believed that an average American gains seven to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year, this data in not based on any systematic studies. The good news is that it takes a lot of additional calories that one should eat to gain a pound- 3,500 calories more than what you need-to be exact.  The bad news is that you also have to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound. So to take off 10 pounds after the New Year, you have to lose 35,000 calories or just a brisk walk from Tampa to Minnesota!

I am sure that this data justifies your goal for the holiday season: damage control!

Make a Flourless Friday Morning Turkey Frittata

Here are some practical tips that can help you achieve that goal:

1. Keep to your schedule - don’t skip meals

Make sure you have your breakfast and lunch. Stick to eggs, lean proteins and vegetables.  Budget your calories to save the most for the evening, especially for the holiday treats. If you eat a snack in between, it would be a great idea to skip the snack during the day, everything fits better!

2. Don’t skip your workout schedule:

Plan your day around the season’s festivities while still keeping to your workout schedule. If you are planning to indulge, take the stairs whenever you can. If you are out shopping, don’t complain that you have to park far from the entrance of the mall - enjoy that walk. 

3. Handling the big meal!

When you are at the holiday meal or at a holiday party, pace yourself.  Try as many interesting hors d'oeuvres.  These come in small sizes and you can go for seconds only when you love a specific item. Avoid fried appetizers. Most traditional holiday meals are predictable. If the meal is a buffet, go for your favorite item first and just pick on the rest. If you love the holiday desserts, save your calories for the grand finale.  Pick lean proteins and vegetables and limit fried foods, creamy soups, whipped starches and rich gravies.  Remember the rule of the Okinawans in Japan -  hara hachi bu,” move away from the table when you are 80 percent full! 

4. The three-bite rule

The three-bite term was coined by a French author, Mireille Guiliano in her book titled, “Why French Women Don’t Get Fat.”  This rule has been used widely as a tool to curb over indulgence, especially for those foods that we really love.  It is believed that the first bite is delicious, the second confirms the first and with the third your palate has had its fill.   Whether it is an appetizer, the main meal or dessert, follow the three-bite rule. This allows you to savor every bite, enjoying your favorite foods and still controlling the quantity. No one has gained weight eating three bites of a pumpkin or pecan pie!

5. Choice of beverage

Water and tea are excellent beverage choices during the holidays and contain no calories unless you add sugar to your tea. Adding fruit slices - kiwi, strawberries, lime or lemon – not only makes it attractive, but it's now loaded with Vitamin C and other polyphenols. Although eggnog and beverages with cream are holiday favorites, they contain more than 350 calories per glass.  A 5-ounce glass of white or red wine contains about 120-125 calories. Although most moderate drinkers (one to two glasses) are more interested in the sensory pleasures and relaxing effect, several studies have shown that polyphenolic compounds present in the grapes combined with the alcohol may contributes to some health benefits.