As diverse as our backgrounds may be, we all seem to approach the holiday season with pre-set notions of “things to do” which defi ne the holidays for us. Our memories of how we spent Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day bring back happy thoughts of family gatherings, parties, and, of course, favorite foods. What would the holidays be without those enticing aromas coming from the oven? When we think about it, FOOD can become the primary focus. Is that good, or do we need to re-think some of those traditions?
SHOULD FOOD BE THE REASON FOR THE SEASON?
Not really! When we look at the holidays in question and their origins, food has little to do with them. Thanksgiving should be just that – thinking about the blessings over the past year for which we are thankful. Christmas is a religious celebration, but for many of us, it has evolved into a reason for parties, gifts, and eating. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day again should be times to refl ect on the year behind us and anticipate the one that lies ahead.
I’m sure that not one of us, however, thinks about any of these occasions without thoughts of roasted turkey and its trimmings, Christmas cookies, and egg nog! There is nothing wrong with indulging our memories and appetites, just be sure it’s within reason.
Whether we’re cooking these comfort foods, eating at a restaurant, or attending holiday parties, nutrition awareness can prevent turning happy memories into an extra ten pounds by January. It really is possible to eat some of the good stuff and hold off the extra calories. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule: eat right 80% of the time, while indulging the other 20%. Eat your cookies and stay healthy too!
MAKING HEALTHY CHOICES
In thinking about favorite holiday foods, almost none of them are a nutritionist’s dream! Maybe it’s because cold weather conjures up desires for heavy comfort food, or perhaps these food favorites date back so far that nutrition information was not readily available or even thought about. We can make better choices today, however. Let’s look at a few traditional holiday foods and their rather frightening calorie content:
SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP – Don’t let the vegetables fool you! This dip can be packed full of mayonnaise and sour cream, and when accompanied by tostada chips, the fat and sodium content is overwhelming. Choose instead the raw veggies with just a little ranch dip.
CHEESE BALLS – Usually a combination of cream cheese and grated cheese, these are really nut covered hunks of saturated fat. If you must have a little cheese, opt for softer varieties such as goat cheese on whole grain crackers.
DARK MEAT TURKEY WITH THE SKIN – This can have 70 more calories and three times more fat than a comparable piece of white meat turkey. So, ditch the skin and opt for the breast meat!
PRIME RIB – A beef lover’s holiday favorite, but 1 slice can contain up to 750 calories and 45 grams of fat; and that’s without any added sauce! In addition, an 8-oz. serving can house 450 grams of cholesterol, 100 more than the daily USDA recommended amount. A better beef choice would be beef tenderloin with about a quarter of the calories.
CREAMED SPINACH – Here we go again. A healthy veggie loaded down with butter, cream and cheese. A serving has about 260 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat. Try some steamed spinach with a squeeze of lemon instead.
GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE WITH FRIED ONIONS – It’s amazing how cans of cream of mushroom soup and French fried onions turn healthy green beans into a harmful combination of fat and sodium. Opt instead for fresh, steamed green beans sprinkled with toasted almonds.
Pecan Pie – A holiday favorite, but did you know that pecans combined with sugar, butter, and corn syrup can cost you more than 500 calories, 37 grams of fat and 26 grams of sugar per slice? Ouch! If you are longing for a piece of pie, try apple instead – without ice cream, of course!
SUGAR COOKIES – Even Santa’s health is in danger with too many of these traditional favorites. A typical Christmas sugar cookie can contain 200 calories and 14 grams of sugar. Don’t be a scrooge, but try to eat just one!