Holiday food doesn’t have to mean holiday weight gain

Maintaining weight can be tricky, and losing weight can be a laughable prospect during the holidays.

In the span of two months, weight-conscious Americans battle the temptations of Halloween candy, then struggle to decide how much stuffing and pumpkin pie to load on their Thanksgiving plates. Next, it’s time to fight the urge to plunk every gingerbread man or frosted sugar cookie someone brings to the office into their mouths, and, finally, one last battle against high-calorie cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on New Year’s Eve.

It’s a losing battle for many waistlines. But nutrition and health experts say it is possible to enjoy the holidays without running in fear from the scale in January. April Schulte-Barclay, a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine at Healing Horizons, 2139 N. 12th St.,  No. 7, suggests letting a little bit go a long way. Schulte-Barclay offered a holiday nutrition class this month and uses dietary counseling in her integrative care offerings.

“If there’s a chocolate-yummy-something at a party, it’s better to have a little piece” than nothing at all, she said. “Food restriction leads to over-indulgence later.”

People may have the best intentions when they decide to skip breakfast or eat light before a big holiday party. But that’s actually a bad idea, according to Joan Allsberry, a Steamboat Springs-based certified health coach. She suggests eating a fiber-rich, plant-based breakfast such as hot cereal with fruit and honey or maple syrup to fill the stomach and flush out toxins, then eat a regular-sized lunch. Eating meals as normal before a big party will keep blood sugar from dropping, Allsberry said.

“Any time blood sugar drops, we will get our hands on anything,” she said.

Portion control can be difficult any time of year, but it’s especially hard when a person goes to a party hungry. To avoid over-indulging, Chele Hawks, owner of the local Jenny Craig Weight Loss Program franchise at 2454 U.S. Highway 6&50, suggests partiers fill half their plates with vegetables, which are filling and healthy, and leave a quarter of the plate each for starches such as cookies and proteins like nuts. She also recommends tweaking traditional recipes, for example, by substituting apple sauce for oil, and approaching the holidays one tough choice at a time.

“We talk about remembering that during the holiday season there are certain events that take place, but you’re not eating (treats) every day from Halloween through New Year’s,” Hawks said.

Many of those events involve alcohol, which is why Jess Cassinari, a nutrition coach and personal trainer at Crossroads Fitness, 2768 Compass Drive, put together a cheat sheet for her clients that lists calorie contents for alcoholic drinks. The fewer shots of alcohol and mixers involved in a drink, the more likely a drink is to have fewer calories. For example, a 4-ounce glass of champagne has 88 calories, while an 8-ounce Long Island ice tea, a mixture of alcohol, soda and sweet-and-sour mix, contains 780 calories.

“The less complicated it is, the better it’s going to be,” Cassinari said.

Cassinari has the same advice for snacking. She suggests keeping trips to the snack table at a party simple by using a smaller plate, sitting down to eat instead of mindlessly noshing by the food, and chewing gum after you’re done eating to prevent return trips for just one more brownie.

She added she knows people are busy during the holidays, but squeezing in a quick, multipurpose workout when possible will help curb extra pounds from attaching to hips and thighs. She suggests exercises that use multiple muscle groups at once, keep a quick pace, and work the larger muscle groups in the chest, back, legs, abdomen and glutes.

“I’m a big believer that you can get a good workout in 30 minutes,” she said.

Josh McGuire, head of the fitness program at Gold’s Gym, 700 Maldonado Way, said the best thing people can do is be prepared for holiday eating.

“Plan to mess up,” he said. “Be realistic about it and plan for it by moving more.”

McGuire said dropping a few pounds in the weeks before a family celebration is a better idea than trying to skip a meal that only comes once a year.

“The meal’s still going to kick your butt, but it’s a better approach to it,” he said.


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