By Fred Tasker
RISMEDIA, Dec. 20, 2008-(MCT)-Not to be a Grinch about it, but we’re amid the most dangerous six weeks of the year, diet-wise. Nutritionists say the average American will gain five to 15 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. And before Valentine’s Day, will break his or her resolution to lose it.
Thanksgiving was the most dangerous day. We’re allowed-almost expected-to nibble and sip all morning, eat too much and drink too much at dinner, doze off over the game on TV, then wake up an hour later with an insane craving for a 450-calorie turkey sandwich with mayo, stuffing and cranberry sauce. And a diet soda.
It’s an axiom: There’s nothing like a big meal to make you hungry later.
There are two ways to deal with this:
First, we will give you the usual tips on doing holiday meals and parties the way your mother always told you-with moderation.
“There’s a lot you can do,” says Sabrina Candelaria, a registered dietitian at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Her advice:
– If you’re a guest, offer to bring a low-calorie dish.
– If you’re the host, offer bubbly instead of high-calorie mixed drinks, or soda water or seltzer instead of soft drinks.
– On the hors d’oeuvres tray, offer celery and carrot sticks as well as cheese balls and bacon-wrapped chicken livers. As an elegant alternative, lay out endive leaves with a little dollop of crab on the ends.
– At dinner, offer low-cal alternatives.
– In cooking, use wine instead of cream in sauces, low-fat yogurt instead of full-fat sour cream in dips, egg whites instead of whole eggs in baking, sugar-free gelatin in the cranberry mold, applesauce for part of the oil in muffins.
– At a buffet, fill your plate moderately and then move over by the potted plant, as far as possible from seconds.
The American Heart Association offers more tips:
– Work on your diet for a few days in advance of the holiday feast.
– Take half a slice of pie-possibly the most-daunting act of human self-denial ever suggested.
– After the meal, take a walk. In fact, a new University of Exeter study in the journal “Appetite” says a brisk, 15-minute walk before dinner helped reduce cravings for chocolate and other addictive foods. Probably also helps you avoid that third glass of bubbly.
WebMD offers more tips:
– Eat less and exercise more, it says. Thank you “so” much. Remember those signs people used to put up on office walls that said, “Think?”
– Peruse the entire buffet line before you start filling your plate, so you don’t pile it with foods you can have any time of year. Now “that’s” a useful tip. Especially since restaurants sometimes put the cheap stuff at the front.
– Take moderate portions, it says. Don’t you just hate moderation?
– Valuable, well-intentioned measures, to be sure. But they’re only gestures that might trim your holiday meal from 3,000 calories to maybe 2,800. (Well, there’s the additional advantage that your progeny will probably spend next Thanksgiving at their other grandma’s house.)
The second approach is to enjoy dinner in all its Reubenesque rotundity, its Botero-like bounty. To stop worrying and learn to love the excess.
This doesn’t apply, of course, if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and so on, Candelaria warns.
“If you’re otherwise healthy, I think the extra calories on one day will not hurt you. You want to have fun, enjoy the holiday,” she says.
Only keep in mind the grim mathematics of culinary indulgence. Go ahead and eat a 3,000-calorie meal with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, dip, chips, cake AND pie a la mode. Then see what you’ll have to do to work it off: Bowl for 15 hours, mow the lawn for 8 hours, walk the dog for 40 miles-incidentally punishing Fido for your sins.
Maybe, you figure, your body will not turn all those extra calories into fat since they’re arriving all at one time? Maybe it sloughs them off like dead skin?
Dream on, says Candelaria. For every extra 3,500 calories you eat, your body will layer another pound of icky, yellow fat on those already dimpled thighs. The only way to avoid it is to cut out a whole lot of calories the day or two after, or maybe 500 a day for the next week. That’s a Big Mac a day. Oy.
Oh, and that old cocktail party canard that calories consumed standing up don’t count?
Yeah, right, says Candelaria.
The other problem with the indulgent holiday gathering is that it’s only one feast of your gluttonly winter of dys(peptic)content.
“You have all those parties at your office, with your friends, all the way past Christmas,” says Candelaria. “If you do that for the whole season, you’re in trouble.”
© 2008, The Miami Herald.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.