Beat the Holiday Bulge!

Holiday weight It seems to happen every holiday season.

You attend parties and office gatherings to share a few festive moments with family, friends, colleagues and lots and lots of food. But when the holiday season is finally over, the bathroom scale reveals that you’ve gained some weight again, much to your chagrin.

Research studies show most adults gain some weight over the holidays. But don’t despair because this year can be different.holiday fat (2)

“I recommend to my patients that they just try to keep their current weight, as opposed to focusing on losing weight,” says Julia Renee Zumpano, RD, LD, registered dietitian, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation. “Even though it’s hard to resist temptations all around you, there are simple steps you can take that can keep the extra holiday pounds off.”

How can you try to maintain your weight and heart-health during such a tempting time? Thanks to the Cleveland Clinic, these guidelines will help you survive the holiday hoop-la – this season and in the future ones to come.  

1. Get moving

One of the most effective ways to maintain or lose body weight is to engage in regular, sustained aerobic activity (*).To burn off those extra calories, kick up your exercise. If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, increase it to 45 minutes. If you exercise three times a week, move it up to five times a week.

Exercise is a great way to burn those extra calories you may be taking in this time of year (remember those iced reindeer cookies you had with lunch?). Here are some ideas to get you moving:

  • If you have a stationery bicycle or treadmill at home, dust it off and put it in front of the television or radio for some background entertainment while you’re exercising. Why not watch your favorite television show and exercise at the same time?
  • Go to the library and get a book on tape or CD, listen to it and read (so-to-speak) as you exercise.
  • Haven’t used your gym-pass in awhile? Hire a personal trainer to teach you effective calorie-burning techniques, or join that kick boxing class you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Go for a morning or evening walk alone or with a friend.
  • Put a little kick in your cleaning technique. Fire up some music and dance while you clean. Who ever knew cleaning could be so fun?
  • Have bad knees or other joints? Don’t worry – water aerobics or swimming is your answer! The water prevents your weight bearing down on the joints and is an effective way to burn calories.

(*) If you haven’t exercised in at least 6-months, check with your doctor first before starting.

2. Aim for seven-a-day healthy holiday food (2)

Making sure you eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day is a great way to help fill-up your stomach but not your calorie level. When compared to other snack foods like chips, crackers and cookies, gram for gram, fruits and vegetables contain fewer calories and tons more nutrients. What’s more – the fiber in fruits and vegetables fill you up faster than traditional snack foods. Pack your refrigerator with bags of cut-up vegetables and whole or cut-up fruits. Grab a bag while on the go or at work. Make a pact with yourself that you’ll eat your five-a-day before you snack on any cookies or other holiday treats. You’re sure to take in fewer calories overall.

3. Control the risk for temptation

Controlling even the slightest chance of coming in contact with ‘tempting’ foods is one way to effectively reduce your intake. While you won’t be able to control all situations, focus on the many ones you can. For example, do you keep candy or cookies at your desk or workspace? Do you frequent the dining room table or pantry where you store all your holiday goodies? Make a mental note of tempting places and try to control them. For example, make a pact with co-workers that goodies will be kept solely in the break room, not at the front desk or in various offices. Mentally plan out how you will avoid tempting situations. If you can’t avoid them entirely, see number 4.

4. Limit to one-a-day

While you can’t control every situation, you can control how much food goes into your mouth. If you are constantly bombarded with holiday parties and displays of desserts or candies you can still effectively help prevent overeating and weight gain. One way is the one-a-day method. Allow yourself one small serving of a cookie or piece of candy each day during the holiday season. Remember that you may have to compensate for it later in the day by reducing your total caloric intake or by burning a few extra calories while exercising. If you aren’t confronted with holiday foods that day, just skip your one-a-day – but don’t compensate and double-up on your serving the next day.

5. Always plan ahead – Never go to a party hungry

Before you go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack such as a serving of your favorite fruit, fat-free yogurt or a low-fat, whole grain granola bar. When you arrive at the party, you won’t be craving hors d’oeuvres.

“If you’re going to a potluck dinner, bring a healthy dish to share such as a salad, veggie or fruit tray, or a low-fat pudding, Jell-O or fruit dessert,” says Zumpano. “That way, you’ll know you have at least one healthy item on the table spread.”

6. Be in charge of your party choices:

  • Small plate, please
    Be wise when choosing appetizers – a small portion of some appetizers may help you from overeating at dinner.
    “Pick up a small plate, and stick with vegetables, but limit or avoid the creamy dips,” advises Zumpano. “Restrict your intake of butter crackers, chips, cheese and meats. If you must have a deep-fried appetizer, eat only one small serving. Never go back for seconds. For dinner, fill half of your plate with salad and vegetables, one quarter with meat, and the final quarter with starch,” Zumpano says.
  • Avoid the sauce
    Avoid sauces made from cream, half-and-half or meat drippings. For salads, use oil and vinegar, vinaigrette or low-fat dressings. Broth -based or vegetable sauces are fine.
  • What about desserts?
    The best low-calorie choices are fruit, Jell-O, pudding, an unfrosted mini muffin, shortbread cookies, ginger snaps or angel food cake. If you must have a dessert with frosting, butter cream, cream cheese, or chocolate chips, limit yourself to one small cookie or one thin slice of cake.
  • Watch the drinks
    “Besides restricting your alcohol to one or two servings, you also need to restrict the type of alcohol,” says Zumpano. “For example, instead of high-fat eggnog, have a light beer or wine. After that, stick with calorie-free drinks such as water, unsweetened ice tea, hot tea or coffee.”

7. Say No Politely

Many times you feel forced to eat foods because people keep putting it in front of you. Learn to say no politely, such as “No thank you, I’ve had enough. Everything was delicious”, or “I couldn’t eat another bite. Everything tasted wonderful”. You’ll find saying no isn’t so hard to do after all.

8. Focus on socializing

Don’t stand around the food table when you are at a party – focus your energies on making conversation with others instead of focusing on foods. Conversation is calorie-free.

*9. Take a healthy snack with you while shopping

If you spend a lot of time shopping, away from home, you’re sure to encounter hunger pangs during the day.  Bring a water bottle and healthy snacks with you while you shop such as walnuts, almonds, dried sugar-free fruit, veggie sticks, etc.  With something to nibble on while shopping, you might find it easier to avoid fast-food temptations at the food courts or elsewhere.

*my own personal recommendation!  Helps me pass by my two mall  favorites…Starbucks and Cinnabon!

holiday bulge (2)Remember, the holidays are meant to celebrate good times with family and friends. Enjoy the holidays and plan effective strategies to help you achieve your weight loss goals. Achieving what you sought out for will give you one more good reason for holiday cheer! Happy Holidays!

Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic 2009

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Nothin’ Says Lovin’ Like Something From the Oven! (Pillsbury)

I’m excited it’s that time of year again when I liberate my holiday cookie cutters and utensils from their year-long refuge and prepare my kitchen for a virtual holiday bake-off.

 This year, I was asked to bring cookies to the Thanksgiving feast.  I enjoy making dozens of different cookies but I’ll have to narrow it down.  Everyone loves sugar cookies.  I have three favorite recipes; each with a different twist.  My personal favorite is the one made with cream cheese.  After scouring my holiday cookbooks and personal recipe files, I’ve decided to make decorative sugar cookie snowflakes, peanut blossoms (the kids’ favorites), chocolate raisin oatmeal cookies and linzer cookies (to start)!

 I’ll be careful what I have for dinner on Thanksgiving, sticking as best I can with the low-cholesterol meal plan I’m following, however I will allow myself a treat or two because after all, isn’t that what the holidays are for?  I couldn’t possibly spend an entire day enjoying my family without a little indulgence, namely dessert.  I only wish I could allow myself to bring some treats back home with me, but I can’t if I want to avoid the temptation. 

 After baking and decorating the cookies, I’ll be posting the recipes along with photos.  For now, it’s time to finish my holiday cleaning, do some decorating, complete writing assignments and get ready for the big day! 

“I figured if I was going to make the world a better place, I’d do it with cookies.” ~ Ana Pascal, Stranger than Fiction

A Sweet Diversion

I’m going to take my mind off the elections today, temporarily, to focus on the next major holiday coming up on the calendar, Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday because I’m usually in the company of family, and lots of them.  I can recall Thanksgivings from the time I was a child and every one of them were special. 

 For almost twenty years now, my eldest sister has had Thanksgiving at her home.  Her five married daughters and their families are always on hand as are some of my other brothers and sisters, often with their grown children or grandchildren.  Nobody comes empty handed.  The food is served buffet style and there’s usually enough to feed an army.  Of course, donations are always made to the food banks at our churches and communities before Thanksgiving to help those less fortunate.

 My sister’s home is very cozy and everyone always finds a place to sit and eat.  Many hands help prepare the food, set the table and clean up afterward.  There’s usually enough time in between or after dinner, watching football games, a movie and dessert to play a board game or two.  Scattergories, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble are some of our favorites.

 One of my favorite desserts, provided I haven’t stuffed myself with appetizers or dinner, is cheesecake.  For Thanksgiving, I like to make a Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake which, for me at least, combines the best of both worlds!  Here is the recipe I’m trying this year which is almost identical to the ones I’ve already tweaked from other cookbooks:

 Chocolate Swirled Pumpkin Cheesecake (courtesy of MomsWhoThink.com)

 Ingredients:

  •  1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate mini chips, divided
  • 3 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 Directions:

 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9-inch springform pan.

 2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and granulated sugar in medium bowl. Press onto bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

 3. Microwave the remaining chocolate chips in medium, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH power for 30 seconds; stir.  If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until chips are melted; cool to room temperature.

 4. Beat cream cheese, granulated sugar and brown sugar until smooth; beat in pumpkin.

 5. Beat in eggs, evaporated milk, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Remove 3/4 cup pumpkin mixture; stir into melted chocolate.

 6. Pour remaining pumpkin mixture into crust. Spoon chocolate-pumpkin mixture over top; swirl.

 7. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. Cool in pan on wire rack.

 8. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove side of springform pan, serve.

 “A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” ~ Anthelme Brillat-Savarin