Any fitness expert out there will be the first to tell you the importance of allowing yourself to enjoy holiday indulgences despite how quickly the endless array of chocolates, cookies, pies, cakes, rich entrees and hors d’oeuvres can add up. For many whose fitness is important to them, and whose diet is carefully structured to either continue successful weight loss or keep up with other goals, it may seem as if the only solution is to make yourself anti-social to avoid the calorie-laden winter festivities.
Yet attempting to remove temptation by refusing or avoiding all of it is rarely the path to victory. Most of us burst the seams of our self-control every November and December, despite our best intentions, and often end up hitting the Thanksgiving spread harder than we might have if we had planned in advance to simply enjoy the dinner – but sensibly – rather than telling ourselves we’ll magically abstain. Instead of holding yourself to impossible standards of willpower, try making these swaps and following these tips to mitigate the damage done while still enjoying time well-spent with family and friends.
Request sensible ingredient swaps to open-minded parties, or bring your own dishes. If you’re on very comfortable terms with friends and family who are either also dieting or understand your plan, don’t be afraid to ask for a few lower-calorie ingredient swaps; for example, dips made with nonfat Greek yogurt instead of full-fat sour cream or cream cheese, spraying Pam rather than olive oil or butter on a frying pan, choosing low-fat gravy, and swapping some of the bread in stuffing for veggies.
If you don’t think this will fly at your holiday parties, compensate by bringing healthy alternative dishes you know you’ll love enough to eat all night – with no need to tell anyone else about your secret plan, unless they mention sticking to a diet, too!
Practice this-for-that swapping.
There’s usually no shortage of options at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which, rather than being part of the problem, can actually be something you can use to your advantage. Try making the following swaps to save hundreds of calories while still fully enjoying your get-together.
Wine for Wine Spritzers. “Watering down” wine may not seem appealing, but replacing just a few ounces of a 5-ounce glass of wine with seltzer water is barely noticeable, provides an enjoyable bubbliness, and saves 50-75 calories.
Mashed potatoes for roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes. Potatoes get a bad name, but they’re actually relatively low-calorie and certainly filling. Pumping them full of butter and milk, as in mashed potatoes, can ruin these benefits, however; go for roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes instead.
Dark meat for light meat. Dark meat in chicken or turkey gets its richness from the extra fat present, which accounts for the 40% increase in calories over white meat. Cut saturated fat and calories all at once while sticking with white meat, and be sure to remove the skin while you’re at it.
Green bean casserole for green beans. This one’s obvious – take out the fried onions and cream of mushroom soup and all you’ve got left are green beans minus the caloric overload. Sticking to veggies in general is a wise choice – start off with all your veggie options and you’ll feel full fast, meaning you’re less likely to overdo it on things like bread, fried foods, pie, cake and others.
Eggnog for anything else. We’re pretty sure eggnog was made specifically with weight gain in mind, because we can’t think of a more effective drink for that purpose. With as much as 250 calories per cup (not counting added alcohol), it’s only worth going for if the holidays simply wouldn’t be the same without it. If you could take it or leave it, however, try another seasonal drink, like hot apple cider or mulled wine, to save 100-150 calories. Lower-fat versions are also available.
Have your own suggestions on how to balance enjoying the holiday season with your fitness goals? Let us know in the comments! For more advice on sensible switches to make this winter or year-round, take advantage of your free access to Registered Dietitians at all Future Fitness Centers.