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Nutrition News: Tipping the Scales

Charlyn Fargo on

Oh, that holiday weight gain -- does it have to happen? Too many portions, constant nibbling, high-calorie recipes and inactivity can derail us quickly. A piece of pumpkin pie has 350 calories; a cup of mashed potatoes adds another 257; a 6-ounce serving of wine is 120 calories; 1 cup of stuffing, 350; a half-cup of cranberry sauce, 220; and an 8-ounce serving of turkey can have 480 calories. Calories for a single meal can tip the scales at almost 2,000 calories.

I've put together some tips to help you ditch the weight-gain worries with some strategies for holiday eating and smart swaps.

No. 1: Don't skip breakfast before the big meal. It may seem like a smart thing to "save" breakfast calories, but research has shown that it's likely to backfire and cause you to overeat later in the day. Choose a healthy, fiber-rich breakfast like oatmeal topped with blueberries or an egg-in-a-cup with plenty of veggies that you can pop in the microwave for a minute.

No. 2: If you're going to graze before the big meal, choose more fruits and veggies and fewer cheese balls. You're going to eat later, so this is the time to choose carefully and practice mindful eating.

No. 3: For the main meal, slow down. It can take roughly 20 minutes for digestive hormones to let the brain know that the stomach is full. Give your body time to register how much you've eaten.

No. 4: Swap the pecan pie for pumpkin and save calories and sugar. Choose white meat over dark and remove the skin; go for the whole-wheat dinner roll to boost fiber. You can also flavor the sweet potatoes with apple juice and cinnamon or whip the mashed potatoes with skim milk and roasted garlic.

 

No. 5: A typical Christmas meal is going to include plenty of starchy dishes, which can cause a sudden spike in blood sugar as carbohydrates are converted into glucose. You can slow that process down by including non-starchy dishes such as green beans, roasted vegetables and salads. Fiber slows down digestion, which keeps blood sugar from spiking.

No. 6: Limit alcohol -- have a glass of water in between. Alcohol stimulates the part of the brain that regulates hunger, which can cause you to feel hungry when you normally wouldn't. It can also decrease blood sugar levels temporarily. Many alcoholic drinks are higher in calories with little nutritional value, so sip in moderation.

Q and A

Q: Do I really need to use a meat thermometer when I'm cooking at home?

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