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Keep the Weight Off this Christmas

Por Gloria R. Mulloy, MS, RD, LD* -

Christmas time... family get togethers, nights out with friends, merrymaking. Wherever we go, food is abundant: pork, turkey, eggnog, cranberry sauce, puddings, sausages, creamed corn, cakes, pies...

This is Christmas for many people. Food is the centerpiece of the Christmas holidays, and that's why it's so easy for us to forget about eating healthy and exercising when we're surrounded by all these temptations.

Many of us start celebrating Christmas in the middle of December and continue the celebration through the arrival of the Three Wise Men on January 6th, and sometimes even longer than that. This means that for one month or more, we are eating a lot and doing very little exercise...

A typical American Christmas meal of 2,000 calories contains around 120 to 150 grams of fat, according to the National Institutes ofHealth. This is equivalent to eating an entire pepperoni or sausage pizza in one sitting and it's much more fat than what we should consume in one day. And this, without mentioning the typical fried dishes and desserts many of us eat during the holidays. Needless to say, many people gain more than just a few pounds during this season.

It is important to follow a healthy diet, and not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. Keep in mind that it's not about losing weight during Christmas; the important thing is to maintain your current weight. Don't feel guilty about enjoying your favorite meals during Christmas time, especially since they only come around once a year and are part of family and cultural traditions. It's not so much about what we eat, but rather how we prepare it and how much we eat.

Remember that about one third or less of our plate should consist of meat or some other food of animal origin; the other 2/3 or more should consist of cereals (rice, pasta, potatoes) or whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Everything, of course, in moderation.

If you want to enjoy Christmas without gaining a few extra pounds, take our advice:

  • If you're going to a party where there will be food, eat a light snack before your leave the house so you don't feel as hungry.
  • Socialize more and eat less. Don't linger around the food table so you won't be tempted to eat.
  • Use small plates and serve yourself small portions. Foods shouldn't be categorized as "good" or "bad"; eat your favorite foods, but use common sense and eat in moderation.
  • Drink more water and less alcoholic drinks. Remember that alcohol is an important source of calories.
  • Eat hot dishes, because they satisfy your hunger more than a cold meal. Choose steamed vegetables instead of a cold salad (drenched in mayonnaise or dressings). Stay warm by sipping a steaming cup of vegetable and bean soup (kidney beans).
  • Choose lean meats and remove any visible fat. White meats, such as chicken breasts and turkey, have less fat than red meats. If you eat pork, don't add high-fat sauces and always choose lean cuts.
  • Modify your recipes. Use skim and low-fat ingredients.
  • Eat lightly the day after a party.
  • Make a healthy gift. Give a basket full of fruits, seasonal vegetables, nuts, and your favorite recipes.
  • Use polite answers to avoid overeating, like: "No thank you, dinner was delicious but I'm already full".
  • Don't forget to exercise. In addition to keeping you in shape, it helps you release stress. If you already have an exercise routine, keep it up! If you don't have one, don't wait until next year to start; begin gradually today. If it's hard for you to keep up with a structured routine, try walking more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and park your car far away so you have to walk a longer distance. Dance! You burn around 200 calories by dancing half an hour.

Remember that what you eat between Christmas and New Year's isn't as important as what you eat between New Year's and the following Christmas. Have a merry and healthy Christmas!!!

* Dietitian


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