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How to Have a Healthy Holiday

While we all love our favorite holiday dishes, it’s essential to remember that they’re packed with more than just nostalgia. The holidays are a time of edible excess, with most dishes featuring sugar, butter and cream. If you’d still like to fit into that little black dress that you bought for New Year’s Eve, it’s important that you stop telling yourself, “It’s only once a year,” and instead focus on how to budget your daily caloric intake around your favorite treats. Otherwise, you may find that you’re spending late December and early January hitting the treadmill a little harder – not exactly the holiday relaxation you had planned.

The Danger Zone: High Calorie Holiday Dishes

It’s easier than you might think to pack on the holiday pounds if you aren’t paying attention. If you’re not at least vaguely aware of how many calories are in your favorite dishes, you can quickly consume an entire day’s worth in one holiday meal. For example, the typical serving of sausage stuffing packs a whopping 550 calories, while a serving of roast goose tops the scales at 784 calories. If potato latkes or holiday cookies are more your style, be prepared for the calories to add up quickly, as these treats can carry between 250 and 400 calories each, depending on ingredients and toppings.

Roast goose is one of the fattiest holiday dishes you can choose – opt for chicken breast instead if possible.

Adjusting Your Holiday Menu

If you’ll be hosting a holiday gathering, you have the perfect opportunity to adjust the menu to add healthier options. While it’s not an issue to serve the traditional fare that your family is accustomed to, consider adding a few newer options, as well. Try replacing sausage and cornbread stuffing with a wild rice casserole, or offer whole grain rolls instead of biscuits or croissants. While there might be a revolt if you skip the mashed potatoes and gravy or candied yams, consider offering roasted root vegetables, too. You might just be surprised at how many of your guests voluntarily choose the healthier options once they’re made available to them.

Add healthy options like shrimp, fresh fruit, or veggies and dip to your holiday table.

Choosing Carefully at the Buffet Table

If you’ll be attending a business buffet, a family dinner or another holiday function, you’ll have less choice about what foods are available to you. Instead, you’ll have to pay careful attention to what you put on your plate.

For example, you can greatly decrease calories by choosing to skip the skin of your turkey, goose or other holiday poultry. Stick to chips and salsa instead of enjoying the cheese ball – one serving can have 200 calories or more. When it’s time for dessert, pumpkin pie has only 250 calories, where a slice of pecan can have double that amount. To keep your calorie count low, skip the whipped cream and ice cream and have your pie plain.

When it’s time for beverages, choose diet soda or seltzer water with lemon. Avoid eggnog, as it packs 335 calories in an 8 ounce serving. If you want a glass of holiday cheer, opt for mulled wine or cider instead, as they’re both lower calorie options.

Eggnog is high in fat and sugar – choose a lower calorie option like mulled wine or cider.

If you struggle with feeling tempted, choose a seat that’s across the room from the buffet table so that you have to walk each time you want another cheese straw. Only eat until you’re full, and then opt for hard candies, gum or mints to help reduce the need for a sweet treat.

While there’s no need to stress about avoiding excess calories completely, you may want to choose a few of these tips to avoid packing on the pounds this holiday season. It takes far more energy to burn a pound of fat than it does to eat the calories that cause it, so in this case, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.