Holiday eating part 2: Standing up to the buffet table

Although may seem harmless…
Can lead to more than just a few extra jiggles!

 Cocktail parties, Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas eve soirees are undoubtedly my favorite part of the holiday season. You get to dress in festive gowns, don your neck and wrists with sparkly jewelry and get to spend time with the people you love the most. NOt to mention, the buffet table is decorated with plump yams, giant hams and delicious, creamy side dishes that could feed a small army. what’s not to love? Well if you are a health-nut, obsessive weight watching maniac like myself, the buffet table becomes my greatest nemesis. I always correlate the buffet table with that evil furnace in the basement of Kevin’s house on Home Alone. Seemingly just a harmless party necessity can turn out to be a soul eating monster if you aren’t careful.

Terrifying for children and adults alike!

 If you’d like to make it out of your holiday party alive, and still comfortably fitted into your gown, you need to prepare to face-off and defeat the treats that reside on that buffet table. Although it may seem like a gory, endless battle, you can walk out a champion (and still worthy of that “wow, you must have lost weight, you look great!” comment) if you follow some easy steps.

  • Eat before you go!! I can’t stress this enough. for some tips on what to eat and how much, see my post Holiday Eating part 1: How to avoid the party binge
  • Bring a healthy dish to ensure you have one good-for-you option.  In this day in age, you can transform any dish to become more diet friendly. I know most of you are thinking “but they don’t taste as good as the full fat versions!” Which could not be farther from the truth. Many people have such a misconception about healthy food and how it tastes like cardboard, has no flavor, doesn’t look appealing, etc, etc, when most of the time, these dishes taste the same, if not better, than their heavier counterparts. Here are a few holiday staples with a lighter twist that taste just as delicious, trust me, i’ve made them!

Green bean casserole: (You save over 100 calories and 5 grams of fat by switching to fat-free cream of mushroom!)

  • 1/2  cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 2  tablespoons margarine
  • 1/3  cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1  10-3/4-ounce can reduced-fat and reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4  cup slivered almonds (or pecons, that add an extra sweetness)
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3  cans of French-cut green beans, drained
  • Directions: In small saucepan, cook onion in margarine till tender. Remove from heat. Stir in bread crumbs. Toss to coat. Set aside.  In a large bowl, combine soup, almonds,  salt and black pepper. Stir in green beans. Transfer to a casserole dish. Sprinkle with onion-crumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or untill heated through.

Healthy cookiesHealthy and cookies don’t usually run hand in hand, however, there are ways to make your favorite dessert a little lighter. 

  •  1) Replace butter with oil or fruit. By switching to oil, you can eliminate up to 5 grams of saturated fat. Butter does work to moisten the cookies so to prevent drying out your treats, keep them in an airtight container. Another great substitute for butter (and doesn’t dry cookies out like oil) is add apples or sauce purees (such as apple sauce, cranberry sauce, cherry pie filling, etc). I love to use cranberry sauce in my fruity cookies because it keeps the moisture and adds that natural sweetener of fruit. If you are not a cooked fruit type of person, greek yogurt works as well and adds a creamy texture to cookies
  • Cranberry-Orange Nut cookies: 
  • 2). Use oat-flour or add in some fiber! I know, fiber cookies seems just wrong. But trust me, they are delicious. Not only are whole wheat and oat flours better for you, they also keep you fuller longer. Who doesn’t love a cookie that doubles as a health bar?
  • 3). Be weary of frosting and artificial glazes, they can be secret hiding places for saturated and trans fats (yikes!) So instead, make your own al natural glaze that tastes just as good without the hidden fats.
  • Healthy cookie glaze (and chocolate glaze)
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2-2 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or orange juice (or lemon or lime juice)
  • Step 1
    Combine sugar with water to achieve the desired consistency in a small bowl. Add vanilla extract or orange juice (or lemon or lime juice). Step 2  Add a little food coloring to each bowl and mix well. (Paste food colors give the most vivid results.) Allow glazed cookies to dry completely before packaging or storing.
  • Chocolate glaze:
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 2 ounces clarified butter
  • Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water.

Delicious good for you hors dourves: Appetizers can set the mood for any meal, and in some cases, have just as many calories and grams of fat as the main entrée!! Those creamy dips and finger pastries are often full of hidden calories and gasp! trans fat.  What is scarier about these bite size fat traps are the fact that they are smaller portions, which make it much easier to overeat.  When you’re making an appetizer, a dip or a pastry puff, lighten up the recipe by using fat-free or low sodium ingredients and when you can, use free, naturally flavored ingredients.

  • Spinach stuffed mushrooms: These are to do for! Make plenty because these little numbers will go fast!
  • 1 package frozen spinach
  • 12 large mushrooms
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat cheese
  • Olive oil for cooking – about 2 tablespoons
  • You may substitute fresh spinach or swiss chard for the frozen spinach.
1. Defrost the spinach and wring out excess water. Place the spinach in a bowl, cover, and cook in the microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove the mushroom stems and saute them with a little olive oil then add to the spinach. Take the mushroom caps and gently saute them in olive oil for about 4.5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste to the spinach and sautéed chopped stems. Place caps on plate, stuff each with a spoonful of the spinach mixture.Top each cap with a little shredded cheese (I recommend mozzarella or sharp cheddar. I also like to add a roasted red pepper to each mushroom cap for a little decoration.
  • Cocktail consumption: The holidays aren’t the holidays without a little (or in my family, a lot) of booze. Although alcohol makes the holidays a little brighter (and family a bit more bearable), it also is a main contributor in the extra holiday budge . Why? Many of us struggle with having just one drink, and a glass of red wine, for example, can contain up to 120 calories per 8 oz glass. That really adds up when you’re pounding them back. The American Heart Association came out with a study that says one glass of red wine a day can help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, so if you can, limit yourself to just one cocktail. But realistically speaking, it’s the holidays, and I know I will not be sticking to the one drink minimum. So if you are like me, and plan on having more than one, justify it by eating a bit less that night or exercising for an extra 15 minutes. The holidays are all about give and take, and I’ll give just about anything for another glass of vino!
  • Now, if you are a mixed drink person and love to mix your own drinks, watch out for juice and fruity mixers, as these are very high in sugar and are often made with little to no real juice and high fructose corn syrup. Try mixing with seltzer water, diet soda (if you must) or lime/lemon juice.

  • Christmas isn’t christmas without eggnog, and this hearty, rich beverage is delicious when paired with Captain Morgan spiced rum. Realistically, you can substitute eggnog for it’s healthier versions (such as soy eggnog or fat-free) but I’m a firm believer in the original eggnog, and refuse to substitute. Luckily, eggnog is thick and has a pudding like texture, so I often replace it with dessert!

So at your next holiday soiree, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed or sucked into the buffet tables allure! Stand strong and follow these few simple rules and you’ll find yourself ready and able to overcome the mountain of temptations that decorate the holiday table. The less time you spend overeating or worried about calories, the more time you’ll have to enjoy laughing and experiencing what the holidays are truly about; spending time with the ones you love.

  • A study done at Vanderbilt found that laughing burns an average of 1.3 calories per minute!

So this season, LAUGH IT UP!


~ by therealnutritionist on November 16, 2009.

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