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Overhead view of friends prepare table for christmas party

Holiday Eating: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

The holiday season, also known as the “eating season” is just around the corner. For most that means family time, social gatherings and endless buffets of food. This can mean weight gain from (too much) eating and decreased activity. Some research estimates the average American consumes 4,500 calories during a holiday gathering. We could all benefit from better food choices at holiday meals, maybe you are working on your cholesterol or perhaps trying to lose weight. There is no reason why you can’t continue these goals while enjoying some of your favorite foods.

How Holiday Calories Can Sneak Up on Us

Let’s start with the how holiday eating can go array if portions are large:

  • Mashed potatoes can have 254 calories per cup
  • A slice of pecan pie can have 456 calories and 65 grams of carbohydrates
  • Traditional stuffing packs in 356 calories per cup
  • 6 oz. of dark meat turkey has 318 calories.

How to Think About Holiday Foods Differently

High calorie and high fat foods will be a plenty, don’t feel like you can’t have any, instead think small amounts. Maybe have a few bites, share with someone else or have a kiddie serving. Balance these decadent dishes with nutrition packed sides, while making a few modifications.

  • Make roasted green beans for around 55 calories per cup and skip the green bean casserole which triples the calorie count
  • Enjoy sweet potatoes by leaving off the marshmallows and substituting in Splenda’s brown sugar blend for the real thing, this can save around 18 grams of sugar
  • Try cranberries or baked apples as side dish. Fruits offer immune fighting antioxidants while keeping sodium and sugar low.
  • Keep meat servings to 3 oz. or about the size of a deck of cards.

Finding balance and moderation at the holiday table will keep you on track with your health goals. Remember - it is okay to enjoy some high calorie foods, just eat less of them, and fill ½ of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Food provides comfort and nostalgic memories – be sure to savor each taste. Go ahead and enjoy Grandma’s famous mashed potatoes and focus on portions and a balanced plate. Enjoy your food, enjoy your family and enjoy your holidays.

If you have additional questions, reach out to CHI Health Nutrition Services.

Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE, IFNCP™
Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE, IFNCP™

Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist and Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. She is the diabetes education program coordinator at CHI Health and sees patients at the Millard Clinic. She works with patients to identify root causes to health conditions and make changes to improve overall health. Ellen’s passion is to help others develop lifestyle habits that allow them to feel their best.

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