How to Splurge on Holiday Flavor, Not the Calories

carolyn-oneil-book-newCalorie Control Council advisor Carolyn O’Neil, registered dietitian and author of the “Slim Down South Cookbook”, sat down with us to discuss how to embrace the holidays and all the culinary temptations without packing on extra pounds. Carolyn says the key to lightening the calorie count of holiday foods and drinks is through recipe swaps and cooking techniques, along with some smart strategies to control portion size.

What are some simple changes we can make to our family feast or holiday work party to reduce calories?

What we suggest is that you eat smarter and lighter prior to the big holiday feast.  If you hold off until the big meal, you are more likely to overeat.  Opt for lighter options packed with protein and nutrients that will keep you feeling fuller with fewer calories — a reduced-calorie yogurt – that gets its sweetness from low-calorie sweeteners – as a snack, for instance, has all the same great nutrition and great taste but with fewer calories.  Snack on raw veggies with hummus dip, and opt for bananas or apples dipped in a small dollop of peanut butter. Smoothies are also a great, nutritious option.  Check out this lighter version – Peanut Butter Protein Shake OR Green Goddess Smoothie made with a reduced calorie sweetener.

Are there foods I can lighten up, where I won’t miss the calories?

Turkey breast is a lean protein choice with less than 200 calories per 3½ ounce serving. Where things can go awry is with all the side dishes and casseroles. How about trying steamed green beans with toasted nuts or fresh cranberries made into a delicious relish with fresh oranges?  And for desserts, you can use a low-calorie sweetener instead of sugar in Sweet Potato Pie or Pumpkin Cheesecake. And don’t forget that liquid calories can add up quickly so be mindful of those “spirit lifters.”  If you enjoy mixed drinks try “skinny” and diet versions with fewer calories to help you keep calories in check.  Like this Rooibos Tea Cocktail. You can also opt for a mocktail – remember, cutting the alcohol cuts the calories And, remember when you are sweetening your favorite spiced tea or coffee, opt for  fat free milk or fat-free half and half and your favorite no-calorie sweetener for something like the Iced Orange Cappuccino.

Is there a strategy I can employ to help me get through the delectable spreads of goodies?

While there is a lot of food this time of year, but remember — you don’t have to try all of it. Even if they are a splurge choose a small serving of your holiday favorites first. Don’t waste your calories on foods you can eat all year long. Secondly, at parties use a smaller plate to limit portions and don’t forget to have fun talking to everyone instead of hanging out with the food. That’s what the holidays are all about — connecting with family and friends.

What can the family do together to help burn off the extra calories from holiday meals?

You can burn calories in a lot of ways.  It’s important for families to stay active while enjoying the holiday together.  Start some new traditions. Instead of just watching football, throw the football around the backyard. If you can, boost your exercise routine ahead of the big feast. Then, after the savory part of the big meal, take family and friends for a walk around the neighborhood.. You’ll feel better and dessert will taste a lot better too!

faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.