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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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B.Y.O.V. (bring your own veggies)

Right now, media clips about getting through the holidays without gaining weight are almost as popular as stories about TomKat, Brangelina, and Britney. In fact, as a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, Halloween through New Year’s Day, a.k.a. “eating season” is usually a pretty busy time for me. So, today, I thought I’d share some of the "thankslimming" tips I typically dish out to reporters around this time of year:

-START A NEW TRADITION. If your holiday typically revolves around eating (or eating and watching football), try something new this year. TiVo the game and spearhead a family/friends fun day! After a light dinner (or smaller portions of more decadent food) gather up your bunch for some good old-fashioned charades, or an active store-bought game like Guestures. Or, rent a learn-to-dance video and get everyone in on the action, or move the furniture, turn on the CD player and have a dance off! If you live in a milder climate, move the party outdoors for anything from horseshoes to badminton. If it’s snowy, why not go sledding, ice skating, or build a snow family complete with carrot noses? Planning an after dinner activity can really help take the focus off of food, and you may be more motivated to not get so stuffed if you have a fun activity to look forward to.

-PARE DOWN YOUR MENU. A lot of hosts end up serving multiple sides and desserts because it's what they always do, but many aren't favorites and end up getting eaten just because they're there. If you're hosting dinner this year, survey your family and friends to find out what the can't-live-without dishes are and forego the rest. It's less work for you, less food on the table, and fewer leftovers.

-KEEP YOUR APPETIZERS LIGHT. Many people get filled up on heavy appetizers like cheese and crackers before the meal is even served. And considering that a typical Thanksgiving meal is about 2,000 calories (what most of us need per day if we’re active), well, adding 600 calories worth of appetizers isn’t a great idea if you’re trying not to gain weight. Instead, serve up fresh veggies with hummus or salsa for dipping, and a fresh fruit platter alongside low fat vanilla yogurt mixed with a little cinnamon. Fruits and veggies are filling (which may help you avoid piling your dinner plate), but they're light enough to prevent you from feeling sluggish - and of course they're loaded with nutrients. If you're going to someone else's house, bring a veggie tray as a "safety dish."

-DON’T POUR YOUR CALORIES. Liquid calories aren't filling (so you won't compensate by eating less food) but they can add several hundred calories to your intake. That’s why I recommend sticking with calorie free beverages like fresh brewed iced tea, hot tea, or water with sliced lemon, lime, or orange wedges (or clementines, pink grapefruit, or blood orange slices). You can also brew and chill infused teas, which provide flavor without added calories. Or freeze fresh mint and lemon wedges into ice cubes to make iced tea special and add color and flavor.

-SWAP SIDES. Serve more watery veggies and fewer starchy veggies. For example, if you want to serve mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, swap the corn and peas (other high starch veggies) for grilled asparagus and mushrooms or veggie kabobs with onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc. A half-cup of corn contains 70 calories but a full cup of asparagus provides just 30 (1 cup of button mushrooms has just 20).

More to come tomorrow…

But before I go, did you know?
-In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated the second Monday in October.
-The cornucopia is also known as the horn of plenty because in Greek mythology, Zeus gave Amalthea a goat's horn which had the power to give to the person in possession of it whatever he or she wished for.
- Irv Kupcinet said, “An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.”

Image courtesy of National Cancer Institute
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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