It's the holiday season and no matter what you celebrate, you're sure to be sharing delicious food with family and friends. But that doesn't mean you have to face January 10 pounds heavier. Instead, set your sights on weight maintenance -- and balance rich party foods with healthy, lower-calorie meals on nonparty days.
• Before you head out for dinner or a party, take the edge off your appetite. Eat a healthy snack: carrots, peppers or grape tomatoes with low-fat dip; cereal with skim milk; a cup of low-fat popcorn; a skim milk latte; low-fat cheese and crackers; a bowl of soup; or an energy bar. This will help you stop eating everything in sight as soon as you arrive.
• Drink a glass of water when you arrive at your destination.
• Check your calendar to see how often you'll be eating away from home, then follow our tips for healthy ways to handle each situation.
Eat right at restaurants
• Meeting friends for a holiday celebration? Pick a restaurant with several healthy choices on the menu, such as grilled fish or chicken, or fresh salads.
• If you're tempted by an appetizer or dessert, share it with your dining companions.
Pick your potluck
• If you're participating in a potluck, make one of your favourite lower-calorie recipes (your coworkers will appreciate it, especially if it tastes great). On nonparty work days, lighten up your food intake and go for some exercise.
Be laid back at parties
• Stay cool and low key; check out the food before you eat and figure out what works best with your eating plan, then make your selections.
• Fill up on low-calorie, low-fat items first. Simple sushi, seafood with cocktail sauce, cold vegetable rolls (not fried), smoked salmon, chicken satay, antipasto, marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, fruit kabobs and vegetables with low-fat dip are all good choices. Go easy on the fried egg rolls, crab puffs, chicken wings and spanakopita, or little quiche. If you really want to taste these high-fat foods, eat a small portion only after you've filled up on the good stuff and aren't as hungry.
• Don't plant yourself beside a bowl of nuts or the Brie wrapped in phyllo pastry; that's too much of a temptation. Instead, stay close to the platters of colourful vegetables and nibble on them to take the edge off your appetite. When you want a special treat, head over and take one or two goodies, then move away again.
• Choose low-fat crackers. If you're nibbling on some and your fingers start to feel greasy, it means you are eating high-fat crackers. Switch to a water cracker, melba toast, pita pieces or pretzels.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover the perfect drink to wine and dine with this holiday season with our tips on page 2
Beware of buffets
• Choose the foods you really want, then eat only half portions.
• Always start with less than what you think you'll eat; you'll be surprised at how little it really takes to satisfy you.
• Make your choices, if possible, before you've had any alcohol, since alcohol can stimulate your appetite.
• Put your food on an appetizer-size plate instead of a dinner plate; you'll fill your plate with less food.
• Select a lot of vegetables.
Be polite at dinner
Dinner parties can be awkward; your hosts have gone to a lot of trouble and you don't want to offend them.
• Take small portions, eat slowly and really taste the food.
• Put your fork down between mouthfuls and enjoy the conversation. This will slow you down and you will eat less.
• Make the focal point the people and the event, not the food.
Hosting a party
Here's how to healthy-up your own holiday meals.
• Increase your fibre by making stuffing with whole grain bread and/or brown rice, adding extra vegetables and including fruit such as apples or pears.
• Make extra vegetable dishes, such as a broccoli and red pepper salad.
• Skim the fat off of the gravy.
• Make sauces and dips lower in fat by using low-fat mayo or yogurt.
• Cut desserts into smaller pieces.
• Leave a bowl of mandarin oranges or cut-up vegetables handy to snack on while you're cooking.
Ease up on yourself
• Don't be hard on yourself if you find your resistance slipping. If one special party serves all your traditional favourites, don't make this a time to deny yourself. Eat and enjoy, just do it moderately. Give yourself permission to taste a little (but, really, just a little) of everything you love. Don't get down on yourself for the occasional indulgence.
• Foods such as chips and dips, crackers and chocolates are around all the time, so don't waste calories on them. Eat only the special holiday foods you love.
Spirits of the season
When it comes to alcohol, moderation is key. Besides the calories, alcohol can stimulate your appetite and loosen your inhibitions. Here's how to quench your holiday thirst while keeping calories in line.
• Most spirits have 60 to 70 calories per ounce. You can keep the calories on the lighter side by your choice of mixer. Juice and pop contain about 100 calories per cup compared with sparkling waters or diet pop, which have virtually no calories.
• Lower the wine calories and control the amount of alcohol you drink by making a spritzer of soda water and wine.
• An eight-ounce (227 millilitre) glass of premium eggnog can have about 325 calories, but the lighter versions can weigh in at half the calories.
• Alternate alcoholic drinks with sparkling water, a virgin Caesar (plain tomato or V8 juice), sugar-free pop or fruit juice (try pomegranate and soda). Choose to be the designated driver and sip on these low-calorie nonalcoholic drinks.
• At a party, take your drink when you walk around talking to friends. It's harder to eat when you've got one hand wrapped around a glass.
• To make a festive cranberry mixed drink of about 100 calories: Add 1 oz/25 mL vodka (69 calories), 1/4 oz/7 mL Chambord (a raspberry liqueur; 25 calories) and 2 oz/50 mL light cran-raspberry juice to a cocktail shaker; stir. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a frozen cranberry skewer. (Recipe is adapted from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.)
Page 2 of 2