Health Advice



Nutrition News: Holiday Strategies

Charlyn Fargo on

Holiday Strategies

Some would argue that the words "healthy" and "holidays" don't belong in the same sentence. I disagree. While the holidays may offer more temptation to overeat, they don't have to sabotage our efforts to eat healthy foods. Turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and green beans all fit into a healthy eating plan. The key is to eat all holiday foods in moderation.

It's true the average holiday meal can pack a calorie punch -- upwards of 1,750 calories per plate -- but it doesn't have to be that way. It adds up quickly: a serving of pumpkin pie is 350 calories; a 1-cup serving of mashed potatoes is 257 calories; a half-cup of cranberry sauce is 220 calories; a 1-cup serving of stuffing, 350 calories; an 8-ounce serving of turkey is 480 calories and a 6-ounce glass of wine, 120 calories.

Here are some strategies to keep overeating at bay:

No. 1: When you arrive, don't immediately head for the food. Constant nibbling and grazing can lead you to consume many calories before you even get to the meal.

No. 2: Just take one plate -- forget going back for seconds. On any other day, a full plate satisfies, and it will on Thanksgiving too.

No. 3: How to cut calories? Remove the skin on the turkey and eat the white meat. Whip your mashed potatoes with skim milk and roasted garlic. Instead of the traditional green bean casserole, enjoy fresh, steamed green beans topped with slivered almonds. Oven-bake your stuffing with sauteed onions and celery. Use whole cranberry sauce rather than jellied. Choose whole-wheat, high-fiber rolls, and slice that pumpkin pie into 10 pieces instead of eight.

No. 4: Look for lower calorie recipes -- bring a veggie or fruit tray if you can and flavor your sweet potatoes with apple juice and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

No. 5: Take a walk after you eat; it helps with digestion.

No. 6: Drink plenty of water.

Q and A

Q: I'm looking for a fiber supplement. Is psyllium or wheat bran better?

A: Boosting fiber is a great goal. Fiber is found naturally in many plants, including legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. The two most common fiber supplements are psyllium and wheat bran, and each contains a different kind of fiber. Psyllium, derived from the seeds of an herb, is a soluble fiber like the fiber in oats and beans. Psyllium forms a gel with water in the gut, making it easier to pass stool. It's helpful with constipation and diarrhea. Soluble fiber also slows digestion, feeds gut microbes and helps lower cholesterol. Wheat bran, the outer layer of the wheat kernel, is an insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, which can help with movement through the colon and help prevent constipation. All fiber is helpful and important for a healthy diet.


Thanksgiving is just around the corner. If you're hosting the big event, you may be scrambling for just one more recipe to make it complete. Here's one I recommend -- a twist on the usual sweet potatoes that you can do in the slow cooker. It's from Eating Well magazine.


4 pounds sweet potatoes


Zest and juice of 1 orange

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

3 tablespoons brown sugar, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tablespoon bourbon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Peel sweet potatoes and slice 1/4-inch thick. Place in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Add orange zest and orange juice; 2 tablespoons each butter and brown sugar; vanilla, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 3 hours on high or 6 1/2 hours on low. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add pecans, bourbon, cayenne and the remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a serving dish, if desired, and sprinkle with the pecans. Makes 14 1/2-cup servings.

Per serving: 175 calories; 2 grams protein; 24 grams carbohydrate; 8 grams fat (2 grams saturateed), 7 milligrams cholesterol; 8 grams total sugars (3 grams added); 4 grams fiber; 177 milligrams sodium.


Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at




Hi and Lois Dennis the Menace Bart van Leeuwen Aunty Acid Clay Bennett Flo & Friends