Leslie Beck's Q & A on trimming holiday calories
Published Wednesday, December 21, 2011 9:03AM EST
How many calories are in a typical holiday meal?
It is entirely possible to consume upwards of 5000 calories over the entire day by eating a larger than usual breakfast, snacking on nuts, cookies, and cheese and crackers, not to mention a few holiday cocktails followed by the big holiday dinner.
Consume all this and it is possible to gain 3 to 5 pounds after one day of feasting. But here's the good news: the extra weight from one meal is water weight, not fat weight. When you eat a large quantity of food, you consume extra sodium and extra carbs which causes water retention. Get back on track the next day and your weight will return to normal in a couple of days. It takes more than one day of overindulging to gain body fat.
For people who want to indulge -- but minimize the calorie damage -- what are some better choices?
Homemade mulled wine or eggnog?
Believe it or not, the lower calorie choice here is eggnog at 220 calories per cup. Homemade mulled wine can have as many as 365 calories per cup. There's no fat added, but there is a lot of sugar -- 10 teaspoons worth in many cases -- which is why the calorie count is so high.
To trim calories in mulled wine, reduce the amount of fruit juice and sugar called for in the recipe. Add orange rind and more cinnamon and cloves for flavour. To cut the calories in eggnog, mix a 1/2 cup of eggnog with a 1/2 cup of non-fat milk for 160 calories.
Cheese ball or pate on crackers?
To save calories, you're better off choosing the pate. Two tablespoons -- a 30 gram serving -- has 70 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat. A 30 gram serving -- about 1/8 -- of a cheese ball has 110 calories and double the amount of saturated fat. That's because most recipes and store-bought products are made with more than one cheese, including cheddar cheese, cream cheese and parmesan cheese.
Mashed potatoes or stuffing?
The lower calorie carb choice at dinner is mashed potatoes made with whole milk and butter. One cup has 220 calories. One cup of homemade stuffing has 355 calories. The butter or margarine used and the drippings from the turkey are the calorie culprits.
To save calories, moisten your stuffing with chicken broth and cook it outside of the turkey. It's just as delicious.
Gravy or cranberry sauce?
If you're thinking cranberry sauce is the lower calorie condiment, think again. Yes, it's got plenty of antioxidants but it's also loaded with sugar. One-half cup has 209 calories and 13 teaspoons of sugar.
One-half cup of turkey gravy has 60 calories and 3 grams of fat – that's not as sinful as most people think.
Shortbread or chocolate truffle?
If you stick to just one, the chocolate truffle has fewer calories. One truffle has 105 calories, whereas one homemade shortbread cookie can have 135 to 180 calories. It's the butter and sugar that adds extra calories.
Fruit cake or mincemeat pie?
Go for the fruit cake to save calories. One piece has only 140 calories compared to the 477 calories in one slice of mincemeat pie.
Any other tips to keep calories to a minimum during the holiday break when we're surrounded by leftovers and holiday treats?
You're right. If you're at home during the holidays, it can be tempting to graze on all those treats. If you're going to be doing a lot of cooking and baking over the holidays and are prone to multiple taste tests, chew strong tasting sugarless peppermint gum while preparing food and cleaning up after meals to prevent mindless nibbling.
It's also important to manage the leftovers so they're out of sight.
- Custom-make "TV dinners" from holiday leftovers and freeze them for quick dinners when you're back at work.
- Grate leftover cheese from your cheese tray and freeze it for later use in pastas, casseroles and baking.
- Package foods like nuts, chips and chocolate in small snack size bags. Limit yourself to one per day.
- Deal with leftover sweets by making dessert bags for guests to take home.