Tis the Season to Eat

Cue the carols on the radio — it’s the holiday season. If you’ve been in a store in the past 10 days, you’ll know retailers are not letting us dig to the bottom of our kids’ Halloween bags for those last few Milk Duds before they start tempting us with candy canes and tinned popcorn.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot Thanksgiving. When the average person manages to cram away between 3,000 and 7,000 calories. In one day.

There are strategies galore for avoiding holiday weight gain. Try a walking calculator to see how far you’ll have to go to burn off the turkey and stuffing. Have a couple big glasses of water half an hour before the feast, then start the meal with a small bowl of hot soup. Instead of pecan pie, indulge in fresh blueberries and yogurt for dessert.

Yes, that last one an actual suggestion from an actual online article, which just goes to shows that some “experts” are living in la-la-land. Or else their moms are really bad cooks.

A vastly more realistic strategy is to take into account that our normal weekly eating patterns fluctuate — most of us eat more on weekends, for example, or have an occasional splurge at the all-you-can-eat buffet. The trick is that we scale down in calories leading up to and after big events like those. Some experts take this a step further and propose that we learn to count calories weekly instead of daily. For those of us who are math-challenged, adding all the way to a recommendation of 16,800 may be as unrealistic as blueberries and yogurt at Thanksgiving dinner, but the point is a good one: Balance over time.

And instead of looking at holiday meals as the enemy, think about their positives. Turkey is a healthy, lean meat. Cranberries are full of nutrients like vitamin C. The various vegetable-rich dishes that we trot out once a year — sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, green beans, pumpkin pie — can all be cooked in variations with less fat and fewer calories than the traditional versions. Who knows, we might even start to eat them regularly.

My favorite site for modified recipes is Eating Well, which has a full menu of Thanksgiving side dishes that shaves 1,200 calories off the same servings of traditional fare.

Simply being conscious of our eating patterns this holiday season can go a long way toward keeping us in those skinny jeans my colleague Nicole blogged about a few days ago. I have a pair too, and I intend to still fit into them come Jan. 1, 2011.

By Amy De La Hunt, Health Blogger for SmartParenting

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Amy De La Hunt is a journalist and editor who lives in the St. Louis metro area and works across the country as a writer, copy editor, project manager and editorial consultant on everything from fiction books to monthly magazines to blog posts. When she's not chauffeuring her teenage sons to activities, Amy is an enthusiastic amateur cook, landscaper, Latin dancer and traveler. Follow Amy on Instagram @amy_in_words

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