CHEF JEFF: Healthy sidesHoliday parties can literally be a minefield for anyone who is trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A step in the wrong direction at the buffet table or too many appetizers before the main course can result in a waistline explosion if you’re not careful.
Holiday parties can literally be a minefield for anyone who is trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A step in the wrong direction at the buffet table or too many appetizers before the main course can result in a waistline explosion if you’re not careful.
But with a little common sense and some will power, you don’t have to be one of those Americans who gain an average of 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
“Problems result when this added weight isn’t lost over the upcoming year,” says Lynn Holum a clinical dietitian with Altru Health System. “Over time, those extra pounds contribute to the obesity epidemic and cause negative health effects.”
Actually, it’s often not the main courses that are the problem but the sides. Some of the culprits include dips, which are rarely skinny and amount to high-calorie party food; fancy appetizers such as canapes that are often full of fat; flavored popcorn slathered with sugary caramel or other sweet syrups, a recipe for weight gain (stick with plain popcorn); cookies and cakes, which are loaded with carbohydrates that may taste good and make you feel good but are packed with calories; and milk chocolates, high in fat and low in the disease-fighting compounds found in purer forms of dark chocolate.
At a recent party that we hosted for members of our trivia team, Therese and I tried to keep things healthy by serving dips with low- or fat-free sour cream (low-fat cheeses are great, too), smoked salmon, shrimp with cocktail sauce, a large plate of veggies and some fat-free whole grain crackers.
Of course, veggies in just about every form are pretty nutritious, and the shrimp it turns out is low in saturated fat, the real culprit for elevated cholesterol levels in most people, and a rich source of protein, a good source of iron, B12, omega-3 fatty acids (as is salmon), selenium and zinc.
Here are a few more tips from Holum to help you get through the remaining holiday parties without jeopardizing your personal health goals:
• Eat a healthy snack just before the party. Being hungry can sabotage even the person with the strongest will power.
• Place food on a napkin or small plate rather than eating straight from the buffet table.
• Don’t eat while standing.
• Don’t stand near a food-laden table.
• Remember that alcoholic beverages can add extra calories quickly and make it more difficult to resist temptation.
• Take your favorites and skip the rest.
• Try to modify “usual” recipes to make them lower in fat and calories.
• Practice being a slow eater — give your brain 20 minutes to tell your stomach that you are satisfied.
• Carry a travel-size toothbrush. Brushing may help you stop nibbling on goodies.
• Keep portions small. Often, a taste is all you need to satisfy your curiosity or a craving.
• Fresh fruit and vegetables are always great, but use a small amount of dip.
• Make one trip to the buffet, and be selective in what you put on your plate. Choose only the foods you really want to eat.
• Take a walk instead of second helpings.
Admittedly, it often isn’t an easy chore to successfully keep weight off during the holidays. But a strategic battle plan will help you from becoming a casualty.
Tiedeman is the food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.