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Dash Away Extra Holiday Calories

The holiday season is filled with the anticipation of spending time with friends and loved ones, making some of our most treasured memories. This most wonderful time of the year is often filled with goodies galore and feasts abound; however, a little less welcome are the calories that come with the overindulgence in those carb-laden meals and delicious candies.

According to an article published in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” the average adult gains one pound of weight during the holiday season. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, it is much more difficult to burn 3,500 calories than it is to consume them. Coupled with the fact that as we age our metabolism slows down and it becomes harder to lose those extra pounds, it serves us well to be proactive in implementing our holiday weight management skills. 

Here are some ideas that may help you dash away from those extra holiday calories without sacrificing flavor:

A dinner table set to receive holiday guests.

  • When preparing your recipes, swap out high-fat ingredients for lower calorie ingredients when possible. Use low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth in dishes like mashed potatoes and dressing.
  • When prepping mashed potatoes, dice the potatoes and place them in cold water overnight to allow much of the starch to drain. Transfer the potatoes to another bowl and rinse well before boiling.
  • Use fresh herbs and spices to flavor meats and dishes to cut down on salt but not flavor.
  • Savor the flavor of foods by eating slowly and mindfully, paying close attention to the sensations that each food produces.
  • Serve dinner on smaller plates. Eating is as much a visual experience as a physical one. When we fill our plates (regardless of plate size), our minds are satisfied once we have eaten all our food. It doesn’t matter if you fill a 9-inch plate or a 13-inch plate, your brain will believe it is full after eating both. Shave those extra inches off your plate to avoid adding inches to your waistline.
  • Fill your plate with non-starchy vegetables, like green beans and carrots. These foods are low-calorie and help keep hunger at bay.
  • Take a 10-minute break between dinner and eating dessert to give your stomach time to let your brain know if it needs more food.
  • Avoid the temptation to skip breakfast on the days you know you’re planning to eat a holiday meal. Eating a nutritious breakfast prevents you from overeating at meals later in the day.
  • Consider substituting whole-grain ingredients in muffins and breads.
  • Choosing low-fat cheeses, sour cream and milk ingredients in your dishes are an easy way to cut back on unhealthy fat and calories.
  • Consider preparing dessert dishes using sugar-free alternatives. This will allow both diabetic and nondiabetic guests to enjoy something sweet. These dishes are sure to be a hit among all partygoers.
  • Conversation is calorie-free. Use mealtimes as an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, reminisce with old friends and enjoy the company of others; however, be aware and stay vigilant that this time is not used to indulge in high-calorie foods.

Food is a big part of our culture, symbolizing our love and connectedness to one another. Preparing food that is grown by our own hands and seasoned with love is part of what makes the holidays so special and memorable.

By Dana Wright, WVU Extension Service Family and Community Development Agent – Logan and Mingo Counties

Reviewed: November 2021