We are quickly approaching the holidays, a time of year that becomes a constant food feast. Beginning with Halloween candy sales, through Thanksgiving, Christmas parties and New Year’s Eve, we will be bombarded with yummy, rich, comforting foods.
If you are trying to lose weight or just keep from gaining, this can be a rough couple of months. The good news is there are plenty of healthy foods that are commonly served this time of year. You just need to know which variations are naughty to your diet and which will be nice.
Apples: Fall brings apples, which are a great source of fiber, vitamin C, pectin and antioxidants. Eating apples can help lower cholesterol and help prevent heart disease.
Naughty: Apple pies; turnovers; sweetened applesauce; caramel or candied apples
Nice: Unsweetened applesauce; Waldorf salads; raw apples; using unsweetened applesauce to replace fat in baked goods
Beans: Green beans are often on the menu for holiday meals. Unfortunately, they are usually in the form of a creamy casserole.
Naughty: Green bean casserole
Nice: Steamed or sautéed green beans with olive oil, lemon and almonds
Chocolate: What’s a holiday without chocolate? Dark chocolate is a concentrated source of flavanol antioxidants that can help decrease cholesterol. It also has a lot of calories, fat and sugar. Choose 70 percent cocoa or higher chocolate for the most flavonols and the least amount of sugar and fat.
Naughty: Chocolate-covered nougats, marshmallows or other candies; milk chocolate
Nice: Dark chocolate dipped fruits
Cranberries: It’s true cranberries can help prevent urinary tract infections by interfering with the ability of bacteria to adhere to cell membranes. They also are loaded with vitamin C and cancer-preventing antioxidants.
Naughty: Jellied canned cranberry sauce
Nice: Fresh cranberry relish; dried cranberries
Pecans: Nuts are a good source of protein, Vitamin E and monounsaturated fats. Nuts are part of a heart-healthy diet. Beware, though, because they do have a lot of calories.
Naughty: Pecan pie
Nice: Raw or roasted spiced pecans. (If you must have the pie, go for just a tiny piece and don’t eat the crust)
Pumpkin: This dark orange vegetable is packed full of vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium and fiber. It really shouldn’t just be a seasonal food.
Naughty: Pumpkin pie; pumpkin breads or bars (with the mandatory cream cheese frosting, of course)
Nice: Crust-less pumpkin pie or pudding; using pumpkin to replace fat in baked goods; using pumpkin in savory soups and main dishes
Page 2 of 2 - Turkey: Another seasonal food that should be eaten year-round. Turkey is an excellent source of protein, and skinless turkey breast has the least amount of fat per serving among all meats.
Naughty: Turkeys that have been injected with a sodium solution or artificial flavorings; turkey gravy made with pan drippings; turkey skin
Nice: Breast meat has less fat and calories than dark meat, but not significantly lower; read labels and choose a turkey that is free of any additives; make gravy with defatted broth; don’t eat the skin
Stuffing: Many consider stuffing to be more important to the meal than the turkey. Tweaking your recipe can make this dish much healthier.
Naughty: Typical stuffing made with white bread, lots of butter, chopped giblets and meat drippings cooked inside the bird
Nice: Use whole-grain bread, defatted drippings, cut the butter, eliminate the giblet meat. Add some dried fruits, like cranberries, raisins, or apricots. Cook in a casserole dish, rather than stuffed in the turkey.
Sweet Potatoes or Yams: Another powerhouse vegetable full of fiber, beta-carotene, Vitamin C and potassium
Naughty: Candied sweet potatoes; canned sweet potatoes
Nice: Baked sweet potato (sprinkle with a little brown sugar and cinnamon, if you must); roasted sweet potato chunks; mashed sweet potatoes
There are a couple of important but simple things to remember to help you prevent weight gain during the holidays. First, keep your portions in check. Go ahead and have some of those special yummy foods, but just take a small portion. Second, keep up with your regular exercises and even add a few minutes more to make up for the extra calories.
Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the cardiac rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.