Calorie-Cutting Tips to Help You Eat Healthier During the Holidays

This story originally appeared in the November-December 2013 issue of Scouting magazine.

If you believe the Calorie Control Council, you consumed around 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving, our national day of gorging. That’s double the daily limit you should eat for good health. (To put it in terms that a Scouter can appreciate, that’s the caloric equivalent of 32 s’mores.)

Even if you avoid the second helping of pie, you’re not out of the woods. Turkey Day is only the beginning of a long holiday season of overeating that culminates with midnight champagne toasts and pigs in blankets.

But you can do your part by making healthier choices when faced with the all-you-can-stuff-in-your-face holiday buffet.

Step 1:

Eat a high-protein appetizer, such as shrimp or raw almonds, to take the edge off hunger. “Protein slows down the absorption of carbohydrates (sugars) you eat with it, which evens out the rise and fall of blood sugar and insulin,” says Dr. Florence Comite, a New York City endocrinologist, expert on metabolism and author of Keep It Up(Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale, 2013). Fewer blood-sugar spikes means less chance of increasing body fat and becoming diabetic.

Step 2:

Prime rib and spiral-sliced honey ham are traditional Christmas dinner favorites. Choose the ham. You can have a double serving and still come in significantly under the 600 calories that a 6-ounce serving of prime rib delivers. For a starch, go with roasted red potatoes cooked in vegetable oil (100 calories) instead of a baked potato with butter and sour cream (400 calories). Just making these simple swaps will leave you with room to splurge on dessert. May we suggest the pumpkin pie with whipped cream? Because of its high water content, it has about 220 fewer calories than two medium-size brownies. And at 340 calories, it’s a better choice than another popular holiday treat, pecan pie, at 505 calories. (And, yes, that’s without the ice cream.)

Getty Images / Istockphoto

Hanukkah Staple

It’s not a Hanukkah celebration without latkes! But this traditional Jewish comfort food — potato pancakes fried in lots of oil — delivers 330 calories and 17 grams of fat in a pair. And who can stop at just two? Save about 200 calories per serving by making baked sweet-potato pancakes. Bonus: Sweet potatoes have more fiber and vitamin A than white potatoes, and they are lower on the glycemic index, meaning they are less likely to spike your blood sugar.

Finger Foods

  • Three pigs in a blanket (mini hotdogs rolled in dough): 400 calories
  • Twelve jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce: 165 calories
  • Artichoke dip: 320 calories per serving, not counting crackers
  • Guacamole: 54 calories per serving, not counting tortilla chips. Bonus: Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

The holidays are for celebrating life, not sacrificing taste. You don’t have to deny yourself if you practice mindful eating at the many opportunities the season presents.

Calorie-Cutting Tips

  • Keep your mouth busy … by talking. Engaging in good conversation reduces mindless face-stuffing.
  • Use a salad plate. Studies show you’ll consume fewer calories using a smaller plate, because large dinner plates encourage us to fill them.
  • Stunt sugar spikes by walking. A brisk walk after a big meal moves glucose into the muscles to help with metabolism, regulating blood sugar levels and may lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a study in the journal Diabetes Care.




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