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November 26, 2008 > How to Survive the Holidays without Putting on the Pounds

How to Survive the Holidays without Putting on the Pounds

With Thanksgiving upon us and the end-of-year holidays not far away, many of us are wondering how we can enjoy the good foods of the season without going into shock when we get back on the scale in January.

"The trouble with the holidays is they aren't just limited to one meal. It's a parade of parties, family celebrations, office get-togethers, thank you gifts of candy, fruitcakes from grandma, and on and on," says Lorie Roffelsen, registered dietitian with Washington Hospital's Food and Nutrition Services department. "The calories and the pounds can accumulate over the whole holiday season."

The danger comes when people don't lose those extra pounds after the holidays, adds Lorie. Over the years, the weight keeps building, and that puts you at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and more.

On Monday, December 1, Roffelsen will be at a diabetes health fair sponsored by Washington Hospital (see box for more information). She'll be talking to folks about "Navigating the Holidays with Diabetes" with suggested strategies for managing diabetes at this time of year.

"Although we'll be focusing on the special needs of people with diabetes, many of these guidelines for holiday eating and cooking are good advice for everyone," she explains.

Roffelsen's advice: keep in mind that the holidays don't have to be about denial. You can still enjoy some of the special foods you always look forward to, but mix them up with some healthier choices so the table isn't loaded down with all high-calorie foods. And, don't be overly ambitious with your healthy holiday eating strategies, or you might set yourself up for failure. This treat-laden season is not the time to plan on losing weight. Rather, it may be a more realistic goal to maintain your weight at its pre-Thanksgiving level.

Healthy Eating Strategies

When going to parties, plan in advance. If you decide ahead of time what type of food you'll eat and how much, you're more likely to stick to your plan. And, don't starve all day so you arrive at the party ready to eat the whole table. When you get there, start by filling up on raw veggies and salads before going after the higher calorie dishes. Roffelsen suggests selecting one or two of your favorites from the choices of higher calorie foods, and then watch your portion size. Step away from the buffet once you fix your plate to help fight the temptation to overeat.

There are always plenty of alcoholic beverages at holiday parties. Try to temper your liquid consumption to be part of a healthy meal plan. If you're watching your carbohydrates, take into the consideration the carbs in beer, sweet drinks like margaritas, and traditional drinks such as eggnog. If you're diabetic, it's critical to monitor your blood sugar level and to be mindful about the effect of alcohol.

"If you are taking certain medications for diabetes, mixing in alcohol may cause a low blood sugar reaction," warns Roffelsen. "It is usually safer to have a drink with food, especially if you are on insulin."

Another good tip for everyone is, if you know you're going to be taking in extra carbohydrates from alcohol, cut down on carbs you would normally eat in other parts of the meal. Eat less bread, pasta or other carbohydrates to balance out your total intake.

Not all the traditional holiday foods are unhealthy, especially if you eat them in moderate portions.

"Nuts, dates, figs and dried fruit are popular holiday treats and can provide significant health benefits," reports the American Dietetics Association. "Nuts are a source of fat, but most nuts have mostly unsaturated fat, making them healthier choices. Serve nuts like pecans, walnuts, almonds and peanuts, as snacks or in casseroles, salads, cookies and cakes.

"Dried fruit, especially cherries, cranberries and apricots, are rich in phytochemicals - plant compounds that aid in the prevention of heart disease and several forms of cancer," the Association continues. "Some phytochemicals may also enhance memory and eyesight."

Healthy Cooking Strategies

When whipping up a holiday dish or making edible gifts for friends, remember these helpful tips from the American Dietetics Association:
* Go easy on foods with "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils.
* Switch to liquid oils or trans fat-free margarines.
* Add healthy ingredients to cake or cookie batters, like raisins or toasted nuts instead of chocolate chips.
* Think about cutting back on total fat by using fruit purees or yogurt in place of butter or other spreads.
You can make delicious holiday food that's still healthy. To give you more ideas, we've included a few recipes to try. Happy - and healthy - holiday eating!

Diabetes Health Fair and Panel Discussion

When: Monday, December 1st
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. - Health Fair and Diabetes Screening
10:30 - 12 noon - Panel Discussion
Where: Conrad E. Anderson, MD, Auditorium, Rooms A & B
Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont
Free and open to the public. Registration required.
To register, call (800) 963-7070.

Eat Well This Holiday Season

Eating healthy during the holidays doesn't have to be painful. Try a mouth-watering recipe like the one below from Diabetes Cooking Magazine.

Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

11/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup golden raisins
*Optional, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350¡F. Coat muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl; mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients, and then add to dry ingredients to combine well. Divide batter equally among muffin cups.
3. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes 12 muffins

Nutritionals (per muffin)
239 calories
Total Fat: 10g
Saturated Fat: <1g
Cholesterol: 0g
Sodium: 267mg
Total Carbohydrate: 38g
Dietary Fiber: 3g
Protein: 3g

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