Everywhere I go, I see more candy and cookies to taste, and unfortunately, my willpower is not overly strong during the holiday season. In the interest of food science, of course, I need to try these things. I am testing my willpower as a bowl of treats sits about 10 feet from me just outside my office.
We may think that we gain several pounds during the holidays, but I have good news for most of us. The average weight gain is about 1 pound.
Through time, however, a pound or two a year can creep up on us. Suddenly we may find that our favorite pants seem to have shrunk. Unfortunately, subtracting weight tends to be more difficult than adding it.
In the long term, excess weight can have numerous consequences, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, stroke and certain types of cancer.
Losing weight probably is not a realistic goal during the holidays. Avoiding weight gain is worth our while, so consider these holiday eating strategies as we wrap up the year:
- Instead of setting a large buffet table, serve items on a side table. Cornell University researchers have said that serving from a side table can reduce the amount of food consumed by 19 percent.
- Use smaller serving spoons. Using smaller serving spoons can decrease the amount of food served by 14 percent, according to Cornell University researchers.
- As you plan menus for the holidays, be sure to fit in all the food groups. Include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy in your menus.
- Bake more healthfully. When making your favorite muffins or fruit breads, try using some unsweetened applesauce in place of the fat. You’ll add fiber and you won’t miss the fat and extra calories.
- Cut the sweet goodies in smaller pieces, or make the cookies small.
- Make healthful options available. Have fresh fruit on hand. Try some fresh apple slices with a sprinkle of cinnamon. This spice enhances the natural sweetness of the fruit.
- When choosing beverages for a holiday gathering, be sure to keep a pitcher of ice water as an option. Punches and drinks with alcohol add lots of calories to your menu. Add some zip to your water with a lemon or lime slice.
- If you are a guest at the holiday party, stand away from the buffet table. Nibbling all evening can add up to consuming a lot of calories.
- Spend more time at parties visiting than eating and drinking. Remember the rule: Don’t talk with your mouth full.
- Use a napkin to gather your goodies. You are less likely to grab the higher-calorie sticky items on a napkin, unless you like to have a little tissue paper as a condiment.
Here’s a tasty and colorful salad that is easy to make, and naturally high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. You could serve it as a dip with crackers or chips or as a side dish.
Mexican Beans and Corn Salad
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 c. frozen corn kernels
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 dash hot pepper sauce (optional)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
In a large bowl, combine the beans, peppers, corn and onion. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add hot sauce and chili powder if desired. Add the dressing to the vegetable mixture and stir gently. Chill at least an hour to marinate.
Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 230 calories, 11 grams (g) fat, 8 g protein, 27 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber and 260 milligrams sodium.
(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)