14 December 2013

Holiday Help for the Foodie

Cheesecake, hard candy and cherry pie. Oh, my! Okay, surfing through the Thanksgiving holidays proves to be trying but successful. Now, the next wave of challenges awaits us—Christmas parties, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve parties and the all-encompassing fog of New Year’s Day and the ensuing sports stupor. Unfortunately, eating provides an easy, feel-good solution for boredom and holiday head. So, how can you manage the feeding free fall and the emotions that often drive more eating?

I asked Amy Goodson, the sports dietitian for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers, to join us and share her insights.

Thanks so much for spending some time during this busy season.

A few questions come to mind as all of us deal with the onslaught of opportunities to make bad choices.

How do you manage the eat til-you-drop holidays when everyone around you is stacking their plates?

I always follow the 80/20 Rule meaning that 80% of the time I stick to nutrient-rich, protein and fiber packed foods that are typically lower in calories and higher in nutrients.  Then 20% of the time I splurge on those foods that are likely high in calories and fat and lower in nutrients like dessert, chips and guacamole (though avocados as nutrient-packed!) and party-style foods.  Eating foods that are often deemed “bad” is not bad for you, you should just consume them less often as they do have more calories.  So for most people, especially that women trying to maintain or lose weight, that looks like about 2 meals a week or if we are talking holidays, then it looks like 2-3 party/events a week.  The key is eat some of what you want, not everything you want!

Do you recommend pre-eating before the parties and family gatherings? If so, what do you recommend eating that is both satisfying and filling?

Eating throughout the day and a snack before the party is key to not-overeating at the party.  Many people will skip meals all day so they can eat more at the party and though calorically that may workout, it causes havoc on your metabolism.  When you skip meals your blood sugar drops leaving you tired and cranky then when you do eat, you eat way more than what you need and it takes a longer time for the body to digest all those calories and then it uses what it needs and tends to store the rest for later.  So they key is small, frequent meals and eat a protein-rich snack before the party.  Protein slows down digestion so it gets you full faster and keeps you full longer.  So grab a string cheese or Greek yogurt or handful of nuts or apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter an hour or so before the party.  Then you can moderately eat and snack at the party.

If I eat the pecan pie a la mode, how much time do I have to burn those calories before they attach to my body as fat? The same day, the next day?

That really physiologically doesn't happen that day.  You need a certain amount of calories each day based height, weight, age, gender and activity level.  If the pecan pie a la mode fits into those calories, then you’re good as you didn’t consume extra calories.  For most people eating one piece of pie does not break the caloric bank; it’s multiple pieces of pie multiple times a week.  However, it you want to burn it off, think of it like this…a mile or about 10 minutes of cardio exercise burns about 100 calories so if you are going to eat 300 calories of pie, tack on some minutes to your workout routine.

Does fat storage occur on a daily based on calories consumed less calories expended?

Fat storage occurs when calories are consumed in excess consistently.  So any nutrient (protein, carbohydrate or fat) can be converted to triglyceride and stored as fat in adipose tissue if consumed in excess of total calories needed.  Metabolism is different for everyone and I would be a billionaire if I could figure that out! J  Some people just burn more than others do. So generally speaking, think of it over the course of the week.  A “pound” of fat is ~3,500 calories.  So over the course of the week, if you out ate your caloric need by 3,500 calories it would technically be likely you could gain a pound.  This is why people gain weight over the holidays…its not one big meal, it more calories consistently at holiday parties, extra alcoholic drinks, family dinners and office goodies laying around.

Do all carbohydrates stimulate appetite? Any advice for carb cowards like me?

Carbohydrates digest the quickest when compared to protein and fat.  Choosing a high fiber carbohydrate like oats, brown rice or 100% whole wheat will slow down digestion in compared to sugary breakfast cereals or candy, but still not as much as protein and fat.  So the key is consuming a lean protein or healthy fat every time you eat a carbohydrate so for example whole wheat crackers and string cheese, apple and peanut butter, eggs and oatmeal, chicken and rice, etc.

What ‘s your favorite guilty pleasure at a holiday gathering?

I will abandon ANY cake, cookie or pie for pumpkin bread and even better will light Cool Whip!  My favorite thing at the holidays!!!!  Thank God it is seasonal J

If I binge on Christmas day without exercising, will my weight change that day?

No it should not.  You might way a tad more the next likely due to water retention, but that’s it.  Most people cannot consume 3500 calories on top of what they need in a day.  Even then I think the body gets to burning.

How much time is necessary, on average, to lose holiday weight? 

That depends how much you gainJ  For most people, after the holidays there is a significant decrease in the higher sugar and fat foods and thus calories, so it might naturally come off when you pick up your normal workout routine again.  But generally speaking, think 1-2 pounds a week for healthy weight loss.

Can you recommend any low-calorie comfort foods?

It’s a stretch, but the better plan might be trying to make your favorite food lower in calories.  So for example if the dish calls for cheese, use 2%.  If it calls for milk, use non-fat.  If it calls for oil, sub in apple sauce or prune puree.  If it calls for sour cream, use low-fat Greek yogurt.  Possible sub part of the sugar for a baking Splenda, make a crust-less pie, use cool whip instead of cream cheese, use fresh fruit instead of canned fruit, etc.  Then you have the same dish with lower overall calories.

Given a caloric choice, would you choose an alcoholic beverage or a piece of fudge?

Me personally?  I’m choosing red wine all day long!  But I am not a chocolate fan so that is easy.  Calorically, it depends on your alcoholic beverage of choice.  If you are talking 5 oz red wine, vodka soda or a light beer, then go with alcohol.  If we are talking egg nog, margaritas, or fancy fruit beverages with rum and fruit…go fudge but watch your serving size.  For me, the glass of red wine will last way longer than a bute of calorie-packed fudge so I would enjoy it longer J

Lightening Round: Please tell me what immediately comes to mind (ie., too sugary L, good choice J, etc.)

Chocolate covered pecans

High in calories because pecans, though good for you and high in healthy fat, are high in calories. So just watch your portion size!

Sweet Potato pie

Decent choice and better choice if you can make it without a pastry crust so maybe make your own crust or use a graham cracker crust or something like that.  Sweet potatoes will provide more nutrients and a little fiber, but typically the pie still has sugar, butter and eggs so just don’t eat too much!


Bad choice as you can eat lots of them without noticing and they are packed with fat and processed carb.  Replace with a high-fiber whole wheat cracker for dipping.

Egg Nog

Bad choice – really high in fat and calories without almost 400 calories for 8 oz!

Chex Mix

Okay choice, just watch your portion size. Again, this is an easy food to eat too much of.  It becomes a bad choice if you are making the recipe that contains butter and bacon grease however!  But if you are just mixing the cereal, pretzels and other things, then snack baggie it and only eat one snack baggie! J


Rich choice – really high in calories and fat for a small bite.  So ideally have a bite of fudge and if you need more sweets, have something else.

There is a way to eat for energy and maintain a steady reserve all day long.  Amy Goodson is an expert on this subject, and I highly recommend her.

Another tip, on Christmas day, an early morning walk, run or gym work-out helps me cope with stress, emotions, inertia and temptation. And it burns calories too!

By managing the season differently, dodging the dark side of the holidays may be easier than you think.

Happy Holidays and Happy Eating!

To reach Amy, the following information should be helpful.

Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics
Ben Hogan Sports Medicine Dietitian
Dallas Cowboys Sports Dietitian
Texas Rangers Baseball Sports Dietitian
FC Dallas Sports Dietitian
TCU Sports Dietitian
817.250.7512 - office

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