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The number of calories that can be consumed on a holiday can be shocking. The average American gains four to seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
“Most of us follow a familiar pattern,” says Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian Diane Dressel. “We overeat during the holidays and then promise to go on a diet after the new year.”
Dressel, who coordinates the organization’s Weight Management program, says she sees a spike in program enrollment at the start of every year.
“Weight loss is probably the most popular New Year’s resolution,” she says. And with 65 percent of the U.S. population classified as overweight — 33 percent being clinically obese — Dressel says she doesn’t see the trend ending anytime soon.
But for those who want this to put a stop to the weight roller coaster, Dressel offers steps to avoid holiday weight gain.
“By making some simple changes, you can still enjoy special holiday foods,” she said. “You don’t have to hide out at home and eat fat-free cottage cheese and carrot sticks.”
The critical factor is learning how to balance calories: tempering the effects of high-calorie holiday foods with lower-calorie substitutions elsewhere in your diet. Dressel suggests these calorie-conserving substitutions:
• Turkey contains fewer calories per ounce than ham. White meat is lower in fat than dark meat. Calories can be reduced further by removing the skin.
• Gravy contains 60 to 70 calories per tablespoon. A generous helping of gravy can add 700 calories to a holiday meal. However, by putting gravy through a skimmer you can cut the calories by 80 percent.
• Stuffing baked outside the turkey has half the calories of stuffing cooked inside the bird. The baked stuffing tastes just as good once topped with skimmed gravy. The combination removes 70 percent of the calories.
• Riced potatoes have fewer calories than mashed and much fewer than candied sweet potatoes. Sour cream has half the calories of butter. A baked potato with one tablespoon of sour cream has only 150 calories.
• Pumpkin and apple pies have half the calories of pecan pie. Most of the fat in pie is the crust, so additional calories can be saved by leaving some of the crust on the plate.
Adding daily physical activity also can help people watching their weight.
“Thirty minutes of walking during the course of the day or climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator can be the difference in maintaining your weight this holiday season,” Dressel says.
The best strategy uses an integrated approach to weight management: learning the calorie content of different foods, limiting intake of high-calorie foods and increasing the level of physical activity.
“You can beat the holiday bulge,” Dressel says.
Healthy holiday recipes and weight loss assistance is available by calling Weight Management Services at 715-838-6731 or by visiting www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org.