I've heard some helpful tips and I've heard some not-so-great ones to fend off holiday weight gain. “The Biggest Loser” contestants shared some suggestions, such as eat what you want, do lunges while grocery shopping, taste the food you like and then spit it out, and make mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.
OK, so I like the last one, but are you going to like it? It is hard to make healthy choices when the unhealthy ones taste so good.
Jill Koegel is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer based in Omaha. She blogs every Wednesday. Read more from Jill.
My favorite strategies for keeping the pounds off over the holidays are:
» Use some of your extra time off work (if you are so lucky!) to exercise.
» A Thanksgiving morning workout will help you make better choices during your big meal.
» Verbalize your commitment to your family and friends.
» Set rules for yourself regarding portions ahead of time. If you do better not tasting something at all, avoid the foods that trigger overeating. Or, allow a “one trip” plate, and avoid huge mounds of food.
» Eat around your plate, tasting each food and enjoying the flavors.
» Avoid alcohol, or limit yourself to 1-2 drinks. Again, this depends on what else you are eating and how drinking affects your eating decisions. If you are someone who eats mindlessly when drinking alcohol, it is best to avoid it altogether.
» Make a green salad with your Thanksgiving meal, and fill at least a quarter of your plate with greens.
If you want to know how a dietitian hosts Thanksgiving, here are the specific Thanksgiving habits I have followed for 10 or so years:
» Roast your turkey instead of frying it.
» Use a yogurt-blended spread on the table such as Brummel and Brown.
» Avoid gravy.
» Use fat-free half-and-half in recipes. It cooks just as well as full fat.
» Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.
» Have containers ready to share the leftovers with guests.
» Use fat-free Reddi-Whip instead of real whipped cream for desserts.
» Make a soup for an appetizer, to pre-fill the stomach. This year I'm making butternut squash soup (recipe below).
» Exercise in the morning, while the turkey is roasting.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Soup
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (5 to 6 cups)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced (about 1½ cups)
3 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1½ cups)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (about 6 large leaves)
6 cups chicken broth
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the squash with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place the squash on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Turn the cubes over and continue roasting for 15 minutes or until they are caramelized; set aside.
In a Dutch oven or a large stockpot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and sage and saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent and tender, about 10 minutes. Add the squash, broth and remaining salt and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid is flavorful. Remove from heat. Using a blender or a food processor, blend the soup in batches until smooth. Return to the pot and keep warm. Top with grated Parmesan.
Tips: I use precut squash and an immersion blender. It is faster and easier.