Last week, I began to answer a reader's question about increasing our self-control in an overindulging holiday season. I gave the first six points of my pre- to post-game meal strategy in overcoming the consumption wars, particularly as it relates to Thanksgiving feasts and leftovers.
I covered priming the holiday pump with daily positive mental input, hydration, nonalcoholic beverages, butter alternatives, healthy hors d'oeuvres, low-calorie side dishes, etc.
Here are my remaining nine points for gaining victory over holiday gorging:
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- If you're making a leafy salad, dump the typical iceberg or romaine lettuce for a fancied mix or spinach. Scrap the croutons, bacon bits and fatty dressings, such as ranch and blue cheese. Instead, add a crazy mix of colored veggies – a rainbow of natural nutrients, with some black, red or pinto beans, slightly sprinkled with vinaigrette.
- Fruit salads are amazing, but allow the vibrant natural colors and tastes of the fruits to market their appeal more than the drippings engulfing them. Few ever will notice that you've junked the Jell-O and cut the calories with light whipped cream.
- And regarding that mouthwatering turkey, remember that white meat means light meat, as it has fewer calories. CBS News, summarizing an interview with registered dietitian Cynthia Sass on "The Early Show," stated: "If you love dark meat, going for the drumstick will save you a little – 240 calories compared (with) 270 – but because much of what's in a drumstick is bone and (because) it takes longer to eat, you may feel like you're eating more. And you may use less gravy; eating a ladle less ... saves another 60 calories." If you remove the turkey skin, you'll save even more calories. And don't use turkey fat or giblets in gravy. Instead, use fat-free turkey broth or packet (powdered) gravy. Also, stuffing cooked outside the turkey has half the calories.
- Some swear by using smaller utensils, saying we can shed pounds by doing so. With plates, forks and spoons being supersized alongside our appetites, Johns Hopkins Health Alerts cited recent research that we will eat less if our shovels (utensils) are smaller. But another new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research discovered that the larger the fork the less people eat. (The rationale is that the brain doesn't believe hunger is satiated with small utensils.) So you'll have to do a little trial for yourself – maybe with a combination of larger forks and smaller plates! One thing is certain: If you place your utensils down when you're between bites, you will further belabor your bloating.
- Consciously chew your food twice as long as you normally do. As many Europeans do, focus on enjoying the taste more than filling your tummy. In September, Masaaki Eto, M.D., informed delegates at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes' annual meeting that recent research revealed that extensive chewing fuels the release of two intestinal peptides that reduce appetite and food consumption in those who are obese. And if you go for a second helping of food to compliment the chef or appease your stomach's yearnings, then you know what to do: Treat yourself to a single serving of one of the lower-calorie entrees on the table.
- Respectfully prompt conversation during dinner. When we talk, we obviously don't eat, and we allow our stomachs to expand with what is already inside them. Share and celebrate the holidays. Ask guests what childhood customs they cherished while growing up. Give guests written facts about the history of Thanksgiving (or Christmas), and ask them to read them aloud. Or talk about health and fitness goals for the holidays.
Post-game meal strategies:
- Instead of immediately and lethargically going over to the couches after dinner, encourage others to take a pre-dessert 30-minute walk with you. You will burn calories while bonding with your guests.
- And when it comes to dessert, I'm all for nuts, but packing on the pecans can also pack on the pounds. Research low-fat, low-sugar pie recipes. Prefer the pumpkin pie even over apple, and opt for whipped cream toppings over ice cream. Sass calculated that "a half-cup scoop of premium vanilla ice cream tacks on an extra 250 calories, as opposed to just 25 for 2 tablespoons of whipped cream." Light versions are even better.
- Lastly, because alcohol can be an appetite stimulant, consider just drinking water or coffee after dinner. And if you bypass the eggnog, you'll spare yourself hundreds of additional calories. As the University of Rochester documented, a 12-ounce can of regular beer contains 140-200 calories, and a light beer has 100 or more calories. A 4-ounce glass of wine has 62-160 calories, and a single shot of liquor has 115-200 calories. And 1 cup of eggnog has 343 calories! It takes 2,100 jumping jacks to burn off 8 ounces of eggnog!
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If you heed and utilize these pre- to post-game meal strategies, I guarantee you that you will not only gobble more than you gorge, but also cut calories and conquer the holiday consumption wars.
And remember this most of all: According to Harvard Health Publications, watching football on TV burns about 70 calories an hour (Did you read that, Gena?).
For a more holistic medical approach, my wife, Gena, and I recommend Sierra Integrative Medical Center, in Reno, Nev. The people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies.