Making health the new holiday tradition

Published 7:01 am Sunday, November 29, 2015

By Courtney Kremer

Hy-Vee Dietitian

We all love the holidays. It’s a special time of year to create our own traditions and make memories with our families.

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But they also offer great opportunities to add a few extra pounds with all the extra food, holiday parties and get-togethers. The problem is, when the Christmas tree is down, the scale often stays up.

Where do we go wrong?

•Constant nibbling/grazing instead of taking one plate

•Portion sizes, lack of moderation

•High-calorie recipes


•Too busy to plan meals/snacks

Take, for example, that holiday meal. The calories can add up quickly. The turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and glass of wine can be a whopping 1,777 calories – and take five hours of exercise to burn off. (Here’s the breakdown: 8 ounces of turkey — 480 calories; 1 cup serving mashed potatoes and gravy — 257 calories; 1 cup stuffing — 350 calories; 1 cup cranberry sauce — 257 calories; 1 slice pumpkin pie — 350 calories; and a 6-ounce glass of wine —120 calories.)

How can you cut some of those calories?

•Turkey — Remove the skin, eat the white meat.

•Sweet potatoes — Flavor with apple juice and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

•Mashed potatoes — Whip with skim milk and roasted garlic.

•Stuffing — Oven bake with sautéed onions and celery.

•Green beans — Skip the casserole. Enjoy fresh, steamed green beans, topped with slivered almonds.

•Cranberries — Use whole cranberry sauce rather than jellied cranberry sauce.

•Dinner rolls — Choose whole-wheat, high-fiber breads.

•Pumpkin pie — Slice your favorite pie into 10 pieces instead of 8.

•Candy — Savor a piece of peppermint after the holiday dinner.

For that holiday buffet, load up on fresh salads and vegetables, and drink a large glass of water before an alcoholic beverage. Here are a few other tips:

•Eat slowly and socialize while eating.

•Survey the offerings before getting in line —plan.

•Make one trip to the buffet table.

•Only take the foods you really want.

•Eat fruits and veggies first — You will eat more of the foods you choose and eat first. Choose low-calorie foods first, such as fruit slices, raw or steamed vegetables and green leafy salads, to save calories.

•Less is more — Eat smaller portions by using a salad plate or smaller bowl. Serve bite-size treats or appetizers. Save your extra calories for a special holiday treat you only eat once per year, such as Grandma’s homemade fudge.

•Pass the protein, please — Include lean-protein foods in snacks and meals to help balance carbohydrate-rich foods, avoid blood sugar spikes and help you feel full longer. Opt for lean meat, poultry, seafood, low-fat cheese and nuts.

•Stay Active — Burn off calories from your meal by taking a brisk walk with friends and family or dancing at the holiday party.

•Get Your Z’s — Seven to eight hours of sleep per night may aid in eating fewer calories and choosing healthier foods during the day

For the office parties, bring a fresh fruit or fresh-cut vegetable tray or make a homemade trail mix using whole-wheat cereal, dried fruit, pretzel sticks, nuts and M&M’s.

French Onion Dip

Serves 10 (about 1/4 cup each)

Try this French Onion Dip recipe to help cut back on those unwanted calories, but still offer a great, tasty option during your next holiday get-together.

All you need

French Onion Dip

French Onion Dip

•1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

•4 cups chopped onions

•3/4 tsp salt

•1 (14 oz) can reduced-sodium beef broth or 1 3/4 cups mushroom broth

•2 tsp onion powder

•2 tbsp distilled white vinegar

•1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

•1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt

All you do

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6 to 10 minutes. 2. Add broth, scrape up any browned bits, and simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated, 10 to 20 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are deep golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Stir in onion powder, then stir in vinegar and cook until evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 20 minutes.

4. Combine sour cream and yogurt in a medium bowl. Stir in the onion mixture. Chill for at least 30 minutes to blend flavors.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate the onion mixture (Step 1) for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months. Cover and refrigerate the dip for up to 3 days.

The information is not intended as medical advice.  Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.