Tips to prevent holiday weight gain

Sensible Ways to Fight the Holiday Weight Gain Battle

This post originally appeared on SplendaLiving.com.

Avoiding weight gain between November and January is all about changing what you’ve been doing year after year that has contributed to the inevitable extra pounds you see on the scale on New Year’s Day. If you’re ready to do something different, I’ve got some suggestions to help you get started!

Reflect on Past Patterns

When you look back on how you’ve celebrated the year-end holidays in the past, what patterns of behavior do you see? Are you making several late night trips to the mall to do your shopping, spending every weekend decorating the house and socializing more frequently with friends after work? Does that leave you with less time to prepare and eat meals at home, keep up with your regular workouts, and take the dog for a walk?

Here are some ways you can change those patterns:

  • Start your shopping and decorating earlier.
  • Invite friends over for pot luck meals instead of eating out.
  • Plan fun activities you can do with family and friends, like ice skating, walking for a cause, biking through the neighborhood to see the holiday decorations.
  • Give yourself a curfew on week nights so you’re home and in bed on time to get a good night’s sleep.

Consider Your Mindset

What you are thinking as the holidays approach can also influence how you will behave. If you have the attitude “anything goes” because holiday foods are only available once a year, you can end up eating and drinking more than you can possibly enjoy. By changing your mindset to focus on the meaning of all those special foods, you can put the brakes on overeating and savor the memories.

Try these more mindful approaches at your next holiday meal:

  • Ask everyone attending to complete this statement: “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/etc. without ____________ (insert name of food or drink) because ____________.”
  • Get built-in portion control at holiday meals by swapping out your large festive plates and bowls for smaller ones, as covered in this earlier blog.
  • Have everyone around the table share a memory of when they first tasted their favorite dish including how old they were, who prepared it, and where they were.
  • Make a video of a parent or grandparent preparing a special recipe to share with the rest of the family.

Reorder Your Priorities

Ask yourself what really matters the most to you as you anticipate each holiday, and then make sure you manage your time and resources so you can participate in those events instead of spending so much time at unfulfilling obligations carried over from year to year. Sometimes all it takes is letting go of a few items lower down on your “to-do” list so you can add something new on top. And remember that having healthy holidays is one of the best ways to have happy holidays.

Consider these options to help you have the kind of holiday experience you really want:

  • Prepare a lower sugar version of a few favorite holiday recipes by swapping out sugar for SPLENDA® Sweetener Products (as described in this blog) to balance out your menu without giving up the sweetness of the things you love.
  • Make an appointment now to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, visit a house-bound neighbor, pack gifts to send to soldiers overseas, or wrap gifts for needy children.
  • Donate the cookies from your annual cookie swap to a nursing home so you won’t have to give up the fun of baking them, but can avoid the temptation of eating them.
  • Move up your annual New Year’s Resolution to lose weight by one month and make a December 1st No Weight Gain Resolutionso you can ring in the New Year without those extra pounds.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Pack the right travel foods for a healthy journey

Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Travel Season

This blog was originally posted on Aspartame.org.

One of the best things about the holidays is the chance to spend time with the people we don’t get to see as often as we’d like throughout the year. But getting together with far-flung family and friends means we have to spend some time traveling. Packing the right clothes for your final destination may be top of mind, but it’s important to consider the foods you’re going to pack for the trip so you can have a healthy journey.

Traveling by Plane

Anything you bring to the airport to eat or drink on the plane must pass through the X-ray machine at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint. Liquid and gel foods larger than 3.4 ounces are not allowed in carry-on luggage, just like the restriction on other liquids. Hummus and yogurt fall into this category so consider packing them in smaller portions or substituting with solid foods if you are hoping to eat them on board.

The TSA Liquid Rule also applies to any food gifts you may have packed in your carry-on bag, even if wrapped. Keep that in mind and pack these products in checked luggage or mail them in advance so precious gifts are not thrown away.

Food items taken through security must be either whole, natural foods, like a piece of fruit, or foods in a container (salad) or wrapped (sandwich). No open food is allowed, such as an unwrapped donut or slice of pizza, since they can contaminate the security equipment.

Consider purchasing additional foods and beverages after you have cleared security checkpoints. There are no restrictions on foods and beverages purchased in the terminal or Duty-Free stores after you have passed through security.  Given the close quarters in airplanes, however, it does make sense to select items that are easy to eat and without strong odors. Individually wrapped granola bars are a good choice. A tray of sushi is not. Additionally, be sure to bring and refill your own water bottle and take advantage of any free in flight beverage service to stay properly hydrated in the air.

Even on flights under two hours, you will probably get hungry before reaching your destination if you consider your travel time to the airport and waiting at the gate. I count on a small bag of mixed nuts to hold me over since I can pack them or buy them at kiosks at most airports.  Eating my snack with a complementary can of diet soda on the plane means I am less tempted to order something from the in-flight menu.

Traveling by Car

Whether traveling by plane or automobile, you’re going to spend a lot of time sitting so you won’t be expending much energy in transit. This means you won’t need high caloric foods to sustain you along the way. While there are more places to buy food on the road than in the air, you’ll have to resist all the tempting fare lining the shelves and select the healthy, low-calorie options. One way around that is to plan your pit stops so you know where the better roadside eateries are on your route and what’s on the menu.

Another option is to BYOCF (bring your own car food).  I recommend eating a meal before you leave and packing a small cooler with individual “road food” bags for each person, similar to packing lunches for school or work. Sandwiches can be made to order, choice of fruit can be packed whole or peeled and sectioned, and preferred vegetables can be combined with a favorite dip in containers. Pre-frozen non-carbonated diet drinks and single pack light yogurts can be used to help keep things cool. And if you want to include chips and other snacks, it’s best to get the small individual bags or pre-portion them at home to help with portion control.

Don’t forget to include plenty of ways to keep little ones entertained so they don’t resort to mindless eating just to pass the time.

By starting out with the appropriate foods and beverages needed by each person in the car for the duration of your trip, you can avoid the temptation of buying something every time you stop to stretch your legs and use the restroom. You’ll save money this way, too. I do suggest reserving the option to buy one “treat” on the road to make the journey more fun, especially for children. Everything from sugarless gum to beef jerky is available, plus, this allows the driver to get a cup of coffee without denying the kids a little something extra.

For most of us, the best part of our holiday celebrations is the special meals we get to share with the people we love. Don’t spoil it by overeating while traveling.  With a little planning, you can arrive with an appetite, enjoy the celebration, and maybe even play together to release some of the energy you had to contain during your travels!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

Changes in the seasons bring more colorful produce to the market

Fall in Love with Fall Fruits and Vegetables

This post originally appeared as a guest blog in Aspartame.org 

Even if the weather doesn’t vary much where you live, you can use the seasonal changes on the calendar to reboot your diet for better health. All it takes is expanding the colors on your plate to feature whatever is being harvested. I mark the arrival of autumn in the produce section of my grocery store by the orange-hued butternut squash, navel oranges and Fuyu persimmons that suddenly appear alongside all those huge bins of pumpkins. It’s a sure sign that summer is over!

According to the American Heart Association, eating a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables is the best way to get all of the essential nutrients you need to lower your risk for preventable diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. To reach the goals outlined in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should consume 1-2 cups of fruits per day and 1-3 cups of vegetables per day, based on your age and energy requirements. Reaching those goals is easier if you remember you can include all forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice.

Thanks to rapid transportation, you can find fresh seasonal produce no matter where you live. In the fall, that includes the parsnips grown in Oregon and the Key limes from Florida. Even the internationally tagged Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and Asian pears are all grown in the U.S. and are being brought to market now, so be sure to look for them in your store. For complete lists of what’s in season throughout the entire year, check Fruits and Vegetables More Matters What Fruits and Vegetables Are In Season?

Let the Holidays Lead the Way to More Produce in Your Diet

Incorporating more fall produce in your diet is easy if you think about the most popular dishes on your Thanksgiving menu. Do sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and apple pie come to mind? There’s no reason to reserve them just for special occasions, and no reason to prepare them with all of the added sugars typically called for in indulgent holiday recipes. Many of your family favorites can be made using a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, to replace some of the sugar. You can find tried-and-true recipes on the websites for your favorite brand of low-calorie sweetener or experiment on your own.  The results should look and taste the same as the originals but will be lower in added sugars and calories, which is good for the whole family.

How to Make the Tastes of the Season Last

 Of course, pumpkin isn’t just for pie. I like to stock up on canned pumpkin puree this time of year so I can make these moist and delicious Raisin-Pumpkin Muffins in the winter months ahead. When you eat them for breakfast you can feel good about including your first serving of vegetables for the day in your first meal of the day! Other great uses for canned pumpkin are in smoothies, soups and chili. I also load my freezer with bags of fresh cranberries every fall so I can add them to quick breads when they are no longer in season and to this Cranberry Salad. It adds color and crunch to the plate thanks to the celery and walnuts. And if you haven’t tried pomegranate arils, the seed pod inside a whole pomegranate, this is the time to buy them. They also freeze well and can add some sparkle and extra vitamin C to any salad you serve.

When you go apple picking or buy a bushel of apples at a farmer’s market, making a big batch of this Baked Cinnamon Applesauce is a great way to enjoy them well into spring. Just freeze the applesauce in one-quart zip-top freezer bags and then thaw it to serve whenever you want it. Another great way to use up those apples and add more vegetables to your meals (cabbage, carrots and bell peppers) is with this Tangy Apple Slaw. In my house, a grilled cheese sandwich is the preferred side dish to  on a chilly autumn afternoon.

The leaves on the trees aren’t the only thing that change color in the fall. The fruits and vegetables on your plate should be changing color, too. Here’s to another flavorful season!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

You can avoid vacation weight gain before your vacation begins

How to Lose Weight after Vacation… and Even Avoid Vacation Weight Gain

This blog was originally published on SplendaLiving.com

One of the best things about going on vacation is the chance to interrupt the monotony of our weekly routines. Whether we use our time off to sleep in and eat a picnic lunch in the park or fly to another time zone where we have breakfast in the middle of the night, the change of scenery and scheduling helps us to recharge our batteries.

Another way we switch over to vacation mode is to adopt the mindset that “anything goes.” I know I have a tendency to stay up later, spend more money and splurge at meals to get the most out of my time off. And there are endless ways to splurge! From big breakfast buffets to lavish lunches and multi-course dinners, the calories do add up. Even when traveling with children and dining in family-friendly restaurants, the large portions and irresistible side-of-fries that seem to come with every meal can dismantle our best intentions.

If you’ve ever experienced vacation weight gain, then you know what I’m talking about. It may only be a few pounds, but if you don’t make a conscious effort to lose them after vacation they can lead to “creeping obesity.”

What is Creeping Obesity?

 Researchers at the University of Georgia who studied vacation weight gain used the term “creeping obesity” to describe what happens when the weight gained while on vacation is not lost from one year to the next, and over time, results in obesity. Gaining just two pounds a year packs on an extra 20 pounds after ten years, and that can be enough to make the difference.

The study involved 122 adults who went on vacations lasting from one to three weeks. Sixty-one percent of the participants gained weight while away, and their average weight gain was .7 pounds. The researchers found that consuming more calories than usual, especially from alcoholic beverages, was a significant factor contributing to the vacation weight gain, and the excess weight was still present six weeks after the subjects returned home.

While I don’t want to put a damper on your vacation fun, I do think it’s important to halt creeping obesity in its tracks so you can go back for more fun year after year and not need a new wardrobe every time. And one of the best ways to do that is to start before you leave home!

Since most of the study subjects gained less than one pound on vacation, why not try losing a pound before you even get the luggage out of the attic for your trip? An easy place to start cutting calories is how you sweeten the hot and cold beverages you drink every day. Instead of adding sugar you can swap it out for a low-calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener. That one change can eliminate 32 calories for every two teaspoons of sugar you replace. And depending on how many sweetened drinks you have each day and how sweet you like them those calories can really add up!. You can also continue this swap during your vacation to cut calories without having to give up sweetness in your favorite beverages.

As I wrote in my blog Controlling Food Portions to Help Curb Holiday Weight Gain, you need a game plan to get what you want out of your vacation (or holiday meals), without gaining weight. You can find some helpful hints in Weight Loss Success: Lessons Learned From Successful Losers and in the checklist below, which I suggest you copy and pack in your carry-on bag, just as a reminder.

 Checklist for Avoiding Vacation Weight Gain

  • Plan a fun new physical activity into each day, such as kayaking, rock climbing or Flamenco lessons.
  • Select fresh seasonal fruit options for dessert.
  • Take walking tours to see the sights and explore old neighborhoods.
  • Order a diet or zero calorie drink instead of tropical fruit drinks.
  • Move to the music whether listening to a full orchestra, mariachi band or street corner musician.
  • Let one meal a day be “special,” but not all three.
  • Wear comfortable shoes so you’re ready for every opportunity to scramble up the stairs, frolic in the park, or track down the best bargains in the marketplace.
  • Enjoy sampling the local fare without overindulging.
  • Save cab fare and use a walking app to get to your next stop.
  • Share small plates to taste the many flavors of the local cuisine.

I hope you return from your vacations well-rested, and at the same weight you were when you left, or a few pounds less if that was part of your vacation plan!

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well. 
Reference:
Cooper JA, Tokar T. A prospective study on vacation weight gain in adultsPhysiology & Behavior.2016;156:43-47

 

Vacation weight gain can lead to creeping obesity

The Spring Break Souvenir Nobody Wants

This post was originally written for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org.

When college students return to campus after their winter break most of them can’t tell you exactly when they’ll be taking their final exams, but they all know the dates for spring break. Reservations are booked long before anyone cracks open a book at the start of the semester. Escaping to someplace tropical for fun in the sun is standard fare, but for many there is a souvenir that can linger long after the tan marks have faded. It’s called creeping obesity.

Just like holiday weight gain that isn’t lost from one year to the next, weight gained while on vacation can contribute to creeping obesity – or gradual weight gain over time – if those extra pounds aren’t lost when you get home.  A recent study found the average weight gain for vacations of one to three weeks was .7 pounds, with some subjects gaining as much as 7 pounds.

Another finding in that study was that weight was gained despite the slight increase in physical activity reported during vacations. Apparently snorkeling and beach volleyball aren’t enough to offset the increased caloric intake, especially from alcoholic drinks which tended to double while on vacation!

Gaining a small amount of weight may seem like no big deal, but as I said in my book Fighting the Freshman Fifteen, if you don’t deal with the ounces they’ll turn into pounds by the time you graduate.  And since it’s much easier to lose one or two pounds than five or ten, why not make it part of your vacation plans to drop those unwanted pounds as quickly as you gained them?   Here’s how to do it.

Ways to Spring Back From a Spring Break!

  1. Know Your Number– Before you go on vacation use a customized program, like SuperTracker, to determine the number of calories you consume each day to maintain your present weight with your usual amount of physical activity. This is number your baseline calorie allowance.
  2. Step on the Scale– Weigh yourself before you leave for vacation and again on the morning after you return to see if you’ve gained weight and how much you need to lose to get back to your pre-vacation weight. Weigh yourself daily while following the steps below until you reach your goal.
  3. Keep a Record– Start recording everything you eat and drink, and the amounts, so you can tally your daily caloric intake. Keep it 200 calories below your maintenance number, calculated in #1. One way to drop 200 calories a day is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with diet drinks and to use no- and low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar.
  4. Up Your Activity– Increase your usual time spent in physical activity by at least one hour per week by adding a single 60-minute workout or an additional 15 minutes to four regular workouts.
  5. Monitor Your Maintenance– You can stop the calorie counting and extra hour of exercise once you return to your pre-vacation weight, but continue to weigh yourself weekly. Resume the food records and added exercise time if you see your weight going up before your next vacation.

Robyn Flipse. Fighting the Freshman Fifteen. Three Rivers Press, 2002.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian and cultural anthropologist whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness.  Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

Family recipes can be improved by each generation

Tweaking Holiday Recipes: ‘Tis the Season for Joy, but Not All the Weight Gain!

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by TC Heartland, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the foods that will be served at one of your holiday dinners? For me, it’s my mother’s recipe for turkey stuffing. Although it contains a loaf of white bread and a pound of pork sausage and is loaded with calories, it just wouldn’t be the holidays without it! If you feel the same way about the special dishes that are part of your holiday meals, but are concerned about year-end weight gain, help is on the way!

I’m tackling ways to help curb holiday weight gain in a two part series. Here in Part One I’m focusing on how to tweak some favorite holiday recipes to make them lower in calories and/or added sugar without losing their great taste. In December you can look for Part Two, which deals with portion sizes and how to get what you want without taking more than you need. And if you need a little refresher on the topic before then you can read my previous blog about Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain.

Keeping the Traditions without All the Calories

Many of the ingredients now available to prepare our favorite holiday recipes are more convenient than the ones our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used. Preparing a boxed cake mix instead of measuring and mixing all of the ingredients in a cake recipe is just one example. We also have modern appliances that make meal preparation easier and more predictable. I’ll take my electric mixer over a hand whisk to beat egg whites any day. I don’t know anyone who wants to give up the improved safety, quality or convenience these changes offer us when cooking, especially during the holidays.

Some of the ingredients available today also allow us to enhance the nutritional value of a recipe without sacrificing taste or appearance. I’m sure my great-grandmother would have been happy to use enriched flour in her holiday stollen so it would contain more iron and important B vitamins along with all the dried fruits and nuts. She also might have replaced the sugar in her cookies, pies and cakes with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated had been available in her day. It measures cup for cup when used in place of sugar for cooking, baking and beverages and significantly reduces the calories and carbohydrate that sugar adds. You can try in recipes such as No-Sugar Sugar CookiesIrresistible Lemon Chiffon Pie and Ricotta Cheesecake Torte. I’m sure you’ll agree, the only thing missing is some of the added sugar and calories that go with it!

As you prepare your holiday menus and food shopping lists, here are some other ways to tweak your favorite recipes to cut calories you’re never going to miss – and help curb holiday weight gain. (Please note that the calorie savings can vary depending on the brand of product you select.)

  1. Use fat-free evaporated milk instead of regular evaporated milk in pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and creamed soups – save about 120 calories per cup
  2. Replace full fat cream cheese with reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) in cheesecake, spreads and frostings – save about 200 calories per 8 ounces
  3. Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in dips, sauces and cakes – save about 260 calories per cup full fat Greek yogurt in place of full fat sour cream and 150 calories per cup fat-free Greek yogurt in place of reduced fat sour cream
  4. Make your own Mix Ahead Hot Cocoawith SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated instead of buying instant cocoa packets – save 50 calories per 6 fluid ounces prepared
  5. Choose a single crust pie versus a double crust pie (such as pumpkin pie instead of apple pie) and save at least 100 calories per serving without the top crust (not counting other potential calorie savings in the filling)
  6. Replace half the oil in quick breads with unsweetened applesauce – save about 900 calories per ½ cup of oil you replace
  7. Top warm fruit crisp with whipped cream instead of ice cream – save about 35 calories per ¼ cup “dollop”
  8. Spray cooked vegetables with a mist of olive oil instead of adding melted butter – save about 90 calories for each tablespoon of butter replaced with a spritz of olive oil
  9. Skim fat from stock before making soup or gravy – remove 115 calories per tablespoon of fat
  10. Prepare party punches with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated instead of sugar – save 677 calories per cup of sugar replaced with SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener. That saves almost 20 calories per serving.

While these are not the only changes that may be needed to avoid holiday weight gain, they are a good start that will benefit everyone around your table. And just as I’ve tweaked my mother’s stuffing recipe to replace the pound of pork sausage with half a pound of lower fat poultry sausage and half a pound of diced mushrooms, you will find ways to reduce the excess calories and added sugar in your holiday meals that no one is going to miss, thanks in part to SPLENDA® Sweeteners. The gathering of family and friends is what matters most during these special celebrations, and it’s nice to know we can continue to pass on traditions from one generation to the next even if the recipes change over time.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

Plate size is one way to control portion size

Controlling Food Portions to Help You Curb Holiday Weight Gain

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by TC Heartland, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

A simple ruler may hold the key to preventing holiday weight gain this season. You’ll need it when unpacking the festive plates, glasses and utensils you use for all your holiday parties and meals. As indicated by the research cited below noting the size of that dinnerware can help you control the size of the portions you eat.

A study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found a link between portion size and overeating based on a review of more than 70 other studies that looked at the effect of different portion sizes on food consumption. The researchers concluded “people consistently consume more food and drink when offered larger-sized portions, packages or tableware than when offered smaller-sized versions.”

Pick the Right Plate for Portion Control

Choosing a smaller plate or bowl is one way to limit portion sizes according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. The research found that using smaller plates can decrease serving size by up to 10% with a corresponding reduction in the number of calories served. If your holiday place settings are super-sized, this may be a good time to pick up some smaller-sized pieces to add to the set to provide the options you need. I found a nice selection of smaller plates and bowls at the discount store that worked well with my tableware, and I got them at a great price, too!

 Apply Caution to the Portion Size When Eating Out

When eating in a restaurant or someone else’s home you typically don’t have a chance to pick your own plate, so other strategies are needed to control food portions. The most important one to remember is that you do not have to eat everything on your plate – or multiple plates if served multiple courses – no matter who prepared the meal or is paying for it. And if questioned about why you didn’t finish be prepared to politely, but firmly, tell your host how delicious the food was, but you simply had enough. You can then ask to take the unfinished portion home.

Need more help? Keep these 5 Portion Control Tips in mind to help you avoid holiday weight gain and unwanted calories all year long:

 Portion Control Tips

  1. Always use a small plate to serve yourself hors d’oeuvres at parties to avoid taking food from platter to mouth where it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
  2. Choose an appetizer for your meal when eating out and complement it with a salad and/or side vegetable.
  3. Alternatively, share an entrée in restaurants and get your own appetizer or salad to start.
  4. Use a salad plate at buffets and don’t put more than three different foods on it at a time, so you must get up and revisit the buffet line if you want more food.
  5. Ask the server for a “primo piatti” portion of pasta, or first course, instead of an entree portion.

For more tips on controlling holiday weight gain, see my earlier blog on “Tweaking Holiday Recipes.”
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Tips for eating holiday lefotvers

What’s Your Plan For A Stuffed Refrigerator?

This post was written as a guest blog for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org. You can read the original post here.

Anyone hosting a Thanksgiving dinner has to have a game plan to make sure all of the food needed for a successful meal is purchased, prepared and properly served. But what about the days after Thanksgiving when your refrigerator is stuffed with assorted leftovers? Do you have a plan for that food so it doesn’t go to waste or end up around your waist?

No need to worry, help is on the way! Just use these tips to turn those leftovers into completely new menu options that will let you enjoy the tastes of the day, but with a healthy new twist.

Smoothies – Use leftover undressed garden salad, fruit salad, crudité vegetables and cooked leafy greens to make a smoothie to fuel you through your Black Friday shopping. Add any slightly bruised apples that didn’t make it into the pie and the remains in that jug of apple cider to sweeten. 

Crumbs & Croutons – Leftover yeast breads and rolls can be cubed, placed in a baking pan and baked until toasted on all sides for use as croutons. (Be sure to store them in an airtight container to keep them crisp.) Unused stuffing mix, cornbread, crackers, chips and nuts can be turned into crumbs and frozen for future use. Just store each of them in separate labeled bags for easy identification.

 Soup – Mashed white or sweet potatoes (without marshmallows) and roasted root vegetables are all you need to make a hearty soup. Add them to a pot with leftover turkey stock (or a little gravy and water) then use an immersion blender to puree. Punch up the flavor with curry seasoning or sriracha sauce, bring it to a low boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add croutons made from your leftover bread for a lunch that will satisfy with far fewer calories than a reheated plate of leftovers.

 Dips & Spreads – Put marinated vegetables from an antipasti tray, such as mushrooms, artichoke hearts or asparagus, in the blender with drained canned white beans to make a tasty vegetable hummus — or mix the pureed vegetables with any leftover hummus. Enjoy with cut up celery stalks not used in the stuffing. Combine roasted red peppers and caramelized onions in the blender with assorted olives for a flavorful tapenade to spread on a turkey wrap. Give leftover peas and pearl onions a whirl in the blender with the remains of the guacamole for a lighter version of this classic dip.

 Omelets & Frittatas – Shred and combine leftover pieces of different hard cheeses to add to egg dishes along with diced baked potatoes, broccoli, green beans and other vegetables. A simple veggie omelet is an ideal high-protein low-carb dinner for the day after the feast.

 Second Chance Desserts – Treats that are out of sight are out of mind, so cut leftover pies and cakes into individual portions, wrap each in plastic wrap, then label, date and freeze them to enjoy at a time when you can afford those extra calories.

 Help the Hungry – Don’t forget to donate any extra nonperishable foods, such as canned pumpkin, boxed pasta, bagged stuffing and bottled juices to your local food pantry to help feed those with no leftovers. It’s a great way to celebrate the true meaning of Thanks-giving!

 

Sugar substitutes can help reduce added sugars in the diet

Halloween, Diabetes & Sweet Indulgences – How to Make the Right Choices

This post was written as a guest blog for Aspartame.org. You can read the original post here.

It’s that time of year when our homes and offices become filled with an assortment of chocolatey, chewy and crunchy candies as we approach Halloween and its aftermath. I know I can’t resist grabbing a few fun-sized bags of my favorite M&Ms from the trick-or-treat bowl when I see them. But what does this sugar-laden holiday mean for the 30 million American children and adults who have diabetes? And how much added sugar can the rest of us enjoy without putting our health at risk?

According to a new survey from the National Confectioner’s Association (NCA), Halloween is the top candy-giving holiday of the year with retail sales expected to reach $2.6 billion in 2015! Fortunately, most people understand candy is a treat to be enjoyed in moderation and nearly 80 percent of parents report they have a plan in place to help children make smart choices after bringing home their Halloween haul. Some parents limit the number of pieces their child is allowed per day while others limit the stash to a certain amount and then get rid of the rest. I like to swap out some candy for sugar-free gum since chewing it can help prevent cavities at the same time it eliminates a food that can cause them.

Limiting the added sugar in the diet

Since Halloween isn’t the only time of year when we eat candy it helps to know how much added sugar we can include in our diets to make room for it when we do. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends we limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of our total calories.  This is equivalent to around 50 grams of sugar (12 teaspoons) a day for someone consuming 2000 calories. The WHO suggests further reductions in added sugar to less than five percent of total calories for additional health benefits.

The NCA reported candy contributes about 50 calories a day to the average American diet, which can mean 4-12 grams of sugar (1-3 teaspoons) depending on the type of candy. That would get you approximately 2 chocolate kisses or 2 hard candies, so if your habit is greater than that you may want to satisfy your sweet tooth with the sugar-free varieties.

Carbohydrates, Candy and Diabetes

The good news for people with diabetes is that the day after Halloween is the start of American Diabetes Month. November 1st is a perfect time to refocus on the goals for good diabetes management, including eating a healthy and balanced diet. Added sugars can be a part of it, but the amount is based on individual carbohydrate allowances at each meal and snack. Since many foods that provide essential nutrients are also a source of carbohydrate, such as fruit, grains and vegetables, it is important for people with diabetes to use their available carbohydrate count for those choices first.

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, provide a way to sweeten foods and beverages without unwanted sugar, carbohydrates and calories. For example, a packet of Equal® can replace 2 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of coffee, bowl of oatmeal or dish of yogurt. Another option is to make your own sweet treats like these Double Chocolate Brownies and Fruit Kabobs with Coconut Cream Dipping Sauce. They do have calories and carbohydrates from other ingredients, but less than the original versions and still taste great.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness.  Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

Giving yourself permission to cheat when on a diet can result in emotional sabotage

Are Cheat Days a Helpful Diet Strategy?

GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION TO CHEAT WHEN ON A DIET CAN RESULT IN EMOTIONAL SABOTAGE

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Cheating has been a hot topic in the diet world lately. Discussions about whether it’s okay to have a “cheat day,” “cheat meal,” or even a “cheat food’ when trying to lose weight or follow a healthy eating plan have been taking place throughout all my social networks.

Now I’m ready to add my two cents. And the arrival of both Easter and Passover this weekend – both challenging food holidays for dieters – suggest there couldn’t be a better time to address this moral dilemma.

The Power of Words

If you have followed the pink slime stories in the news over the past few months then you have witnessed first-hand the power of words. Public outrage over those two words have put a meat company out of business, thousands of people out of work, and left stores and consumers scrambling to find an alternate source of ground beef.

Do you think the reaction would have been the same if the product in question had been referred to in all those news stores as “boneless lean beef trimmings,” its technically correct name? I don’t.

Cheating is also a powerful word. It immediately brings to mind something bad, like marital infidelity, or a sports scandal, or a kid taking answers off another kid’s test. There is simply no right way to cheat.

Anyone on the path of self-improvement cannot be helped by this word. Even if you give yourself permission to cheat as part of your diet strategy, you increase the likelihood you will be emotionally sabotaged by it and fall off the wagon completely. Here’s how:

Cheating implies a failure of moral judgment, so you will feel you are not worthy of reaching your goal. Cheating means you broke the rules, so you can never win.

Cheating suggests a weakness of character, so it is your fate to be fat (or have clogged arteries or whatever other health issue you’re trying to fix).

Practice Being Normal

Since you cannot be perfect in this life, it helps to have a back-up plan. That’s why I recommend to people that they “practice being normal” as an alternative to the whole idea of needing to cheat on a diet.

Being normal means you’ll make some mistakes along the way to your better self (and size), but you can learn from them and move on. For example, you might realize you don’t make careless food choices when you’ve gotten enough sleep or you don’t over eat when you don’t skip meals. You may even discover you can eat a handful of jelly beans just because you want to.

The good news is it doesn’t mean you’ve cheated, it just means you’re normal.

Are you ready to banish cheating from your diet for good?