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by Matt Rinehart

With the arrival of the holiday season, many of us will add unwanted pounds. Here are some recommendations on ways to enjoy the festive gatherings without splurging on the calories. Upon arrival, scan the buffet table to see the options available before filling a plate, and then decide what items are really wanted. Next, select a dessert or appetizer plate instead of the large dinner plate which will help with portion control. Finally, chew slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for the signal to go from our stomach to our brain to let us know we are full. In addition, remember that parties are for socializing, so concentrate on having conversations with family and friends instead of filling up on food.

Foods That Are Okay

Egg white mini-quiches. You can add nitrate-free lean turkey breast, spinach, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers or a veggie of choice. Skip the cheese and utilize garlic powder, turmeric or spice of choice to not only help decrease fat and total calories, but to add in additional health benefits, including anti-cancer support. Top with diced fresh tomato and cilantro. Mini-quiches can be 50 calories or less each.

Shrimp cocktail, Swedish meatballs or chicken kebabs. These are high in protein and low in fat. For example, 10 shrimps with cocktail sauce pack just 120 calories and less than one gram of fat.

Strawberry shortcake can be 150 to 200 calories per serving and you can feel good about the fact you are consuming healthy strawberries in the process.

Foods That Are Not Okay

Cheese pinwheels. These can be 200 to 300 calories apiece, depending upon ingredients used, and can be at the higher end of that range if crescent rolls are used. You can make these healthier by making two simple changes: use whole wheat tortilla over crescent rolls and reduced-fat cheese instead of full-fat cheese.

Mixed nuts. Almonds and cashews are very healthy and packed with protein, fiber and healthy fat. The problem comes when you eat more than the appropriate portion. One cup of mixed nuts has a jaw-dropping 814 calories and 70 grams of fat. Either skip the nuts, or count out 15 to 20 pieces on your plate so you have a reasonable portion (approximately 150 calories).

Pecan pie. A piece of this pie can be 400 to 500 calories per slice, not to mention the additional fat and calories that would be added if pairing it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, which is certainly common.

Don’t forget to consider the drinks. Beverages are sneaky, especially alcoholic beverages, which could have just as many calories as high-fat foods.

Drinks That Are Okay

Spiced chai tea. This contains about 100 calories per serving and includes a variety of ingredients that have health benefits such as cloves, cardamom, black tea, ginger, and cinnamon sticks. Potential benefits are digestion, antioxidants, blood sugar support and anti-inflammatory.

Champagne or light beer. The average flute of bubbly has 80 calories and no fat, and a bottle of light beer has just over 100 calories and no fat.

Vodka and club soda with a lime. Club soda has zero calories, zero fat and zero sugar.

Drinks That Are Not Okay

Creamy homemade hot cocoa. This can contain 300 calories or more per serving and is high in saturated fat, as well as added sugars. 

Eggnog and creamy martinis. If you must partake, limit these to one serving: Eggnog has an average of 344 calories and 19 grams of fat per glass. Dessert cocktails like chocolate martinis pack around 400 calories and 20 grams of fat.

Gin and tonic. Tonic water can actually have as many calories as a regular cola.

Matt Rinehart, MS, RD, CSO, LD, is a nutrition supervisor at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.




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