No need to skip dessert at holiday gatherings
The temptation is plentiful when it comes to eating during the holidays, but one can actually indulge in all the goodies without putting on the pounds if it’s done right.
It’s all about balance, said EJ Park, a dietician at the Institute for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Abington Memorial Hospital.
“Generally, most people will gain a few pounds over the holidays, but you need to monitor how much you are consuming,” Park said. “I’m all for enjoying what you eat. It’s not so much what, but how much you eat.”
The goal is to be proactive and have a positive attitude, she said. Before going to a party or holiday dinner, decide “how you will spend your time” at the event.
“Do not skip meals before the dinner or party,” eat a normal breakfast and lunch, Park said. “Often when we feel deprived we tend to binge or overeat, make poor choices and consume extra calories.
“Don’t go into a party with an empty stomach”; eat a healthy snack, such as fruit or nuts, an hour or two before, she added.
“The quickest way to gain weight is by drinking your calories,” Park said, so the goal should be to avoid or limit as much caloric beverages as possible.
One cup of eggnog can have between 350 and 400 calories, 32 ounces of coke has more than 300 calories, a bottle of Bud Light has more than 100 calories and a 4- to 6- ounce glass of wine has between 80 and 120 calories, she said.
Once at the event, “try to choose healthy substitutes or alternatives. Choosing a leaner cut of meat can help with fat and calorie intake,” Park said, noting by comparison, a 3- to 4- ounce beef prime rib has more than 20 grams of fat, while 3 ounces of sirloin tips has only 3 grams of fat.
In the same vein, one might want to choose more vegetables than potatoes, she said.
“The focus should be on portion control,” Park said. “Eat in moderation … don’t eat more just because you’re at a holiday party.”
Likewise, “you can still enjoy desserts, but don’t eat cookies and a huge piece of cake,” she said, “maybe one cookie and a moderate slice of cake or pie.”
And if the event is a potluck, one may want to modify recipes with lower fat or sugar ingredients in preparing a dish, Park said.
For example, in making a dessert with cream cheese, use reduced fat or no fat cream cheese. Two tablespoons of cream cheese has 90 calories and 20 grams of fat, while two tablespoons of fat free cream cheese has only 30 calories and no grams of fat.
In addition, egg whites can be substituted for whole eggs in recipes that require a lot of eggs, applesauce can be substituted for oil in some baked products and there are butter alternatives that are plant- based and have less saturated fat, she said.
To curb a tendency to overeat, “when you’re done, move away from the food,” she said. Sometimes people will continue to eat when they see others eating or just because it’s in front of them.
If she was the hostess, Park said, she would serve “some kind of protein dish,” like beef or fish, a few choices of vegetables and a pasta or rice dish using whole grain ingredients.
Desserts “are always a challenge,” she said, adding, “I always have fruit,” and she usually asks someone else to bring the dessert.
For those hosting the party, a few safety tips are in order.
When shopping, keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from readyto- eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread, according to homefoodsafety. org.
Refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours. Store food in a refrigerator at 40 degrees or below or in the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Perishable foods left at room temperature more than two hours should be thrown away. Other leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen in air- tight containers labeled with an expiration date.
“I’m not for eliminating foods because they are higher in calories, I’m for better control of how much, which is more realistic and doable,” Park said.
And to “compensate for extra calories, increase your exercise.”
To Your Health Linda Finarelli