Tips For Healthier Menus And Holiday Eating

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – Holidays are filled with good cheer and good food. For many, the holiday season can lead to unwanted weight gain. Members of TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, know that making conscious food choices and practicing portion control can prevent excess weight gain. Healthy, well-balanced meal planning is a key element to successful and lasting weight-loss and maintenance.

According to Dena McDowell, M.S., R.D., C.D., nutritional expert for TOPS, a typical Thanksgiving dinner contains 1,200 calories for the single meal. Modifying the menu to include recipes that are lower in fat and higher in fiber can reduce the calorie burden at mealtime.

McDowell suggests these additional strategies for keeping holiday weight gain to a minimum throughout the holiday season:

  • Practice portion control.
  • Choose skinless white meat turkey, instead of high-calorie and high-fat dark meat.
  • Reduce the calories of the meal by loading half the plate with vegetables or fruit.
  • Plan your menu to include salads and lots of vegetables.
  • Use a luncheon-sized plate for your meal.
  • Wait 20 to 30 minutes before deciding on a second helping. If you are still hungry, choose a small helping of a fruit or vegetable with a glass of water.

“Preparing low-fat and higher fiber recipe alternatives is another way to lighten the holiday meal,” McDowell added. “For example, in recipes such as green bean casserole, use reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup and low-fat milk to reduce the calories and fat content of the dish substantially.”

According to McDowell, the fat and calories saved by substituting traditional recipes with Thanksgiving makeover recipes are substantial.  For example, with the traditional menu of a dark meat turkey dinner with green bean casserole, corn soufflé, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and apple pie, a person will take in 1,262 calories and 44 grams of fat!  Using the modified, lighter versions of recipes reduces the calories to 778 and fat to 24 grams – a savings of nearly 500 calories and 20 grams of fat!

In her own kitchen, McDowell prepares these recipes that are lighter than their traditional counterparts but equally satisfying.

Cranberry Turkey Sausage Stuffing

12 cups whole wheat/grain bread crumbs
1/2 pound 98% fat-free turkey sausage
2 T. olive oil
6 cups coarsely chopped leeks
1 green apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
1 1/2 T. poultry seasoning
1 T. dried rosemary
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups fat-free chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350?F. In a large skillet, cook the sausage until crumbled and fully browned (about 10 minutes). Place sausage in large mixing bowl. Cook leeks, celery, and apples in oil. Add poultry seasoning. Stir frequently and cook for 10 minutes. Add the rosemary and dried cranberries. Stir well. Add the leek mixture to the sausage and then add the bread crumbs. Pour broth over mixture and stir well. Place in two baking dishes, cover, and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and cook for additional 15 minutes.

Nutrient Analysis:
1/2 cup serving, 107 calories, 2 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 2 g fiber, 319 mg sodium

Rosemary Turkey Rub

10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 T. rosemary, fresh, chopped
1 T. olive oil
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. salt

Mix ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Rub on turkey skin and cook using traditional method.

“Desserts can be the downfall to a healthy meal, since holiday treats often include pies, cakes, and chocolate,” McDowell said. She offers these tips when mealtime turns to dessert time:

  • Select one or two items and ask for half portions.
  • Choose fruit-based desserts, which often have fewer calories than cream or custard options.
  • Skip the double crusts. Crusts often provide large amounts of calories and fat.
  • Eat slowly and savor each bite.

When taking part in a holiday meal, remember that food is only part of the gathering. Making the meal a secondary aspect of the celebration can help. Other suggestions for a healthier holiday include:

  • Aim to spend quality time with friends and relatives.
  • Offer to bring a low-calorie menu option.
  • Slow down and enjoy the meal.
  • Encourage everyone to get up and get active to burn those unwanted calories.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 62 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success.  Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view or call (800) 932-8677.

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