Sure, holiday spreads are tempting and delicious. But there's no law that says you have to head for Fat City. Just make a few changes to the way you dine this December and you won't be mistaken for Ruben Stoddard come January.
THE PRE-MEAL SNACK
If you must nosh, pick pecans or almonds over anything that you dip. The fat and protein combo in the nuts will lessen your appetite, keeping you from overeating later.
THE MAIN COURSE
Be a breast man. One 3.5-ounce serving of white chicken meat — about the size of a deck of cards — has only 135 calories 30 grams of protein. (Dark meat, er, pales by comparison, with significantly more calories and fat per ounce.)
We know you're gonna eat it — just bear in mind that even a small serving of "stuff" can pack upward of 500 calories. (So keep the amount you pile on your plate as small as possible.) And if you have the choice, always pick celery- or cranberry-packed stuffing over those made with calorie-dense fillers such as pork.
Pick corn bread over biscuits or rolls. Cornmeal is less processed than the white flour used in breads, so it has less of an effect on blood sugar. Keep calories low by laying off the margarine and topping that pone with a dab of fresh cranberry sauce.
A single ladle of gravy can load 200 or more calories onto your meal. Rather than drowning your turkey in a gravy tsunami, use a tablespoon to dole out a sensible portion. It should be enough to add flavor to your food, and not so much that it puddles up against that scoop of Grandma's inedible Jell-O salad.
Cranberries aren't just a holiday staple. Depending on which researcher you speak to, cranberries have one of the highest — if not the highest — levels of disease-fighting antioxidants among any food out there, bar none. That's why you should consider yourself free to eat as many cranberries as you want, especially if you're getting them in a freshly made sauce, as opposed to a canned log, which can contain added sugars.
Choose sweet taters over mashed. Those orange are so packed with nutrients — including fiber, potassium, and vitamins C, B6, and E — that NASA recently declared them one of the essential life-supporting foods the government would use in future space-exploration projects. (But to keep your rockets running at their peak, scrape off as much of that festive-yet-fattening marshmallow-and-brown-sugar topping as possible.)
Eggnog? More like egg not. Your better off drinking red or white wine or light beer — especially since each cup o' nog packs 343 calories and an astonishing 19 grams of fat. Can't give the stuff up? Buy "light" nog or even soy nog, instead. They taste the same but are thinner (less rich) and much more refreshing. You can also cut regular nog with a bit of water, diluting it so you get fewer calories per glass.
When filling your plate, remember that pumpkin pie is best, followed by fruit pies and then pecan pie. (Even though pecans are healthy, it's just too calorie-dense to be good for you.) Don't add ice cream or Cool-Whip to your pie, and scoop your slice out from its crust — even if it garners a scowl from Mom. Of all the things one can eat, pie crust is among the very worst.