The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day are often called the trap. Studies show that Americans gain between one and 10 pounds during this period, with the most likely gain falling in the five- to seven-pound range.
With office parties, dinners with friends and Chanukah, too, is there a way to maneuver through temptation without packing on pounds?
"Most people gain weight 50 calories here and there, so this is manageable to control by making incremental adjustments," says registered dietician Libby Mills, M.S., R.D., LDN. (She maintains several Philadelphia-area locations and can be reached at 215-546-1231 or email@example.com
Mills suggests starting a food log, a habit her successful clients maintain. If you write down everything you consume, it inhibits you from going overboard.
"Set up strategies before parties," says Mills. Will alcohol be served? How much will you drink?
She suggests arriving at parties well-hydrated by sipping water all day. To cut calories, dilute alcohol with seltzer. If you want to consume a second alcoholic beverage, consider sparkling water instead.
Since most people adore favorite holiday foods, such as pumpkin pie or latkes, Mills believes you should enjoy them. But plan ahead. Notice what is being served. How much turkey stuffing do you want? How many Chanukah cookies will you eat? Limit portions, particularly of fattening foods.
"It's a matter of picking and choosing," says Mills. Think about what foods are available all year, versus delicacies specific to this holiday or season. At Thanksgiving, perhaps forgo the mashed potatoes in favor of candied yams.
At buffets, Mills suggests arranging foods on a small plate. Savor your selections as you eat them. Then relinquish the plate and move from the buffet.
Seek activities besides eating: Chat with other guests or help the hostess. "Whatever you do, don't hover around the buffet after you've finished eating," says Mills.
If you are hosting a party, you're in a pivotal position. Serve festive foods, but mix a lot of fruits and vegetables into the menu, creating a healthy balance. Take a break between the meal and dessert. Plan party games or a group walk.
"It takes 20 minutes for our brains to realize we're no longer hungry," says Mills. Her best tip: stop eating when you're satisfied -- not stuffed.
White Wine Spritzer
4 oz. dry white wine, such as Pino Grigio
4 oz. seltzer
several ice cubes
Pour wine and seltzer into a wine glass. Drop in enough ice cubes to create volume and chill the spritzer. Serve immediately.
Steamed Vegetable Medley
1 yellow squash
1 red pepper
1/2 lb. string beans, ends trimmed
1 bunch carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
1 broccoli bunch, stems discarded and cut into florets
kosher salt to taste
Cut both yellow squash and zucchini in half lengthwise and then crosswise. Slice these pieces into wedges 2 to 3 inches long.
Slice red pepper in half and run under cold water to remove the seeds. Cut away the pith and then cut into 1/2 -inch slices.
Rinse all vegetables under cold water.
Place like vegetables together on different levels of a steamer or in stacking bamboo steaming baskets inserted into a deep pot. (You may need more than one pot.) Place a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the steamer or pot.
Steam vegetables until they are tender on the outside when pierced with a knife point but still firm inside. Carrots may steam for 10 minutes, while the other vegetables should be ready in 5 minutes. Err on the side of undercooking to ensure crispness. You want vegetables to look moist and resplendent in color.
With a slotted spoon, remove like vegetables and place together on a platter, arranging them in contrasting colors. For example, carrots next to broccoli, next to red pepper, etc. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Late Harvest Arugula Salad
1 bunch arugula
1 pear, skinned, cored and diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
2 tsps. olive oil
3 tsps. freshly squeezed lemon juice
kosher salt to taste
Cut off arugula roots if still attached to leaves. Rinse arugula under cold water until thoroughly cleaned of sand. Break leaves into bite-sized pieces and dry them in paper towels or a salad spinner.
Place leaves in a salad bowl with the pear and cranberries. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt. Toss salad until ingredients are well mixed. Serve immediately.
Fish, Head to Tail
11/4 to 2 lbs. of any light white fish: pompano, bass, sea bass, red snapper, etc. Ask fish dealer to clean the fish, keeping the head, tail, skin and bones intact. Do not fillet; you want the whole fish.
nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt to taste
lemon wedges, optional
2 tsps. fresh parsley, minced
Preheat broiler. If broiler element is inside the oven, place rack on the second rung from the top.
Thoroughly rinse fish under cold water, inside and out. Drain on paper towels. With a knife, make a couple of slits in skin, so it won't tear while cooking.
Coat slotted broiler pan with cooking spray. Place fish on prepared pan and brush the top with 1/8 cup of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Turn fish over and repeat. Wrap tail with aluminum foil.
Place fish under broiler for five minutes, or until skin starts to brown. Remove. Trying not to tear skin, use a plastic or wooden spatula to carefully turn fish. Return to broiler and after five minutes, turn once more. Remove aluminum foil. Repeat, broiling for five minutes on both sides again, for a total of about 20 minutes or twice per side.
Test for doneness by gently inserting a knife near bones in thickest part of flesh. There should be no evidence of blood. With a spatula, peek inside fish. Bones should be white, not pink. Fish should be moist.
Serve immediately on a platter surrounded by lemon wedges, if using. Garnish with minced parsley.
Carving Made Easy: Most people avoid serving a whole fish, because facing the skeleton scares them. But fear not.
To carve, cut off head and tail. Reserve them for people who appreciate these delicacies.
Cut three-inch slices across the fish, going until you reach the spine. With a metal spatula or fish utensil, slide off slices onto a platter. Some bones may adhere.
At the tail end of the fish, place tip of knife under the center of the spine and lift. The frame should pop out in one piece.
Cut bottom half of fish in three-inch slices and serve.
Serves 2 to 4.
nonstick vegetable spray
4 ripe, but not overripe, bananas
2 tsps. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 packet no-calorie sweetener
dairy-free coconut sorbet (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.° Coat a baking pan with nonstick spray.
Remove peel from bananas and pull off strings of pith. Place bananas on the prepared pan. Drizzle evenly with lemon juice. Sprinkle sweetener evenly on top of them.
Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bananas soften.
Serve immediately with coconut sorbet, if desired.