Christmas cookies, eggnog, peppermint bark, candy canes, rum balls, gingerbread, chocolate everything, pies, nuts, fruitcake. OK, maybe not the fruitcake.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas calories. How do you avoid the seemingly inevitable holiday weight gain that comes with dinners, treats, and festivities? In a perfect world, there would be peace on Earth, stores would not be crowded, gift lists would be affordable and we would burn off every morsel we eat instead of sitting on it throughout the following year. Unfortunately, we’re likely to overload on everything, including sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat. At this time of year, it’s easy to put on weight. It creeps up with each event and tasty bite.
It may be tempting to starve yourself in anticipation of an impending food fest, but putting your body in starvation mode is never a good idea. If you starve during the day, you’re liable to go all-out at night. In addition to the enormous caloric intake, you’ll wake up the following morning with the after-effects of too much sugar, sodium and possibly alcohol — not a particularly attractive on-cam look.
Eat a light breakfast and lunch. Your blood sugar, metabolism and mirror will thank you.
Checks balances apply to calories, too
Another tip is to think of meals in terms of checks and balances. Decide ahead of time what you want to eat. Look for healthy options when you get to the food — choices such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables. There’s no need to deprive yourself. With a bit of advance decision-making, you can nourish yourself and still enjoy dessert or some treats. Also watch liquid calories: eggnog, hot buttered rum, cocoa and crème liqueurs are loaded with the sneaky things. Mixers are high in sugar. Limit yourself or opt for sparkling water, diet cola, light beer or a glass of wine.
It’s your party fare – be crafty
If you’re the host and want to keep your dinner table as healthy as possible for everyone, you can make recipe substitutions that guests aren’t likely to notice. Use sucralose or stevia instead of sugar in many baking recipes. For dips, use light or fat-free sour cream or even fat-free yogurt. Make gravy using bouillon and skim milk in place of cream. Cut back on salt and leave the shaker on the dinner table. If your guests want more, they can add it themselves. Angel food cake with fruit and sugar-free pudding is a wonderful addition to the desert tray. For the main meal, you can’t go wrong with an assortment of vegetables and a large salad to accompany the traditional fare.
Sticking to a diet is always challenging, but it’s even worse during this time of year. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to go face down into the buffet like swine at the trough (especially now that almost everyone is armed with a camera phone to capture you while you stuff your face). While it’s perfectly fine to enjoy some of those once-a-year treats, don’t go on a rampage. Fuel your body with healthy food, not only for the sake of your waistline, but also to prevent illnesses like diabetes and heart disease — conditions that don’t take a break during holidays.
Finally, two important things to remember: 1) Moderation is key and 2) Christmas cookies and candy, including that divine peppermint bark, are half-price on December 26.
Jenna Andre is a total gearhead who also appreciates the simpler things in life. Email her at Jenna.Andre@ynotcam.com.