Holiday and Party Strategies

First, if you don’t care about gaining those usual 5 holiday pounds, do not read any further! I believe this is a legitimate option … Enjoy your holiday with abandon and come see me in January! If, on the other hand, you’d like some ideas for at least maintaining your health and weight this season, read on…

“The social butterflies among us are very fortunate in some ways. You’re often out and about, meeting new friends and entertaining old friends at home. Life is full. Life is grand!” says Katherine in Diet Simple.

“But then there’s the little (or not so little) issue of weight. And what about your hard-won health gains: your lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose? The increased energy level you’re enjoying so much? The beautiful clothes you’re finally able to fit into (remember telling me how fun  it was to shop in your own closet?)? All that hard work! Festivities can put a dent in even the staunchest and most determined health-gain and weight-loss resolve. Just about every party, after all, revolves around food… Fattening, delicious food, studies show, we’re naturally attracted to. Just thinking about all the calories can make me feel heavier!” says Katherine in Diet Simple.

Parties and holidays are a time for celebating life and for bringing families and friends together. No one’s perfect, and it seems almost antisocial to obsess over your weight when everyone around you is having such a great time. Still parties present a lot of opportunities for overindulging. Even if you’ve managed to master the daily routines of physical activity, eating in moderation and so on, parties and holidays don’t come around that often. Which means we don’t have as much practice reconciling social obligations and our natural attraction to fattening and delicious foods with our desire to maintain the same waist size.

Parties are not – I repeat NOT – only about food. They should not even be mainly about food. Not convinced? Well, take a minute to make an inventory of the things that matter to you – that really touch your heart around special occasions and holidays. Here are some of the thing that I and my clients have decided are important:

*Beautiful holiday decorations and music,
*Showing kindness to others and making sacrifices for those less fortunate,
*Getting together with friends and family you rarely have time for,
*Observing religious significance of holidays,
*Attending holiday plays and concerts,
*Free time for special exhibits, ice skating and skiing,
*Volunteering at the local homeless shelter.
*Looking your best and feeling confident and energetic.

Even without knowing you personally, I can say with some confidence that your list of priorities is probably pretty similar. Do we think about food when we go to parties or celebrate the holidays? Of course, but there is so much more! More tips on prioritizing…

Tips for Celebrating from Diet Simple…

* Prioritize what is most important to you about the holiday (see list above!),

* Remember, the “holidays” are only 3 days, NOT every day between Thanksgiving and New Year,

* Plan your holiday eating carefully. Savor and enjoy to the fullest every bite … every calorie,

* Prioritize your high calorie items. Choose three of your favorite holiday foods and allow yourself to  enjoy them. Don’t waste calories by sampling everything,

* Prioritize your parties. Choose one or two of your favorite parties during the week and allow yourself to indulge at them.  Eat before going to the other parties. If you indulge at, say, all five parties you’re invited  to in one week, you may gain more weight than you would feel comfortable with,

* ALWAYS eat normally and on time the day of the party … Don’t starve yourself during the day so that you  irrationally overeat everything in sight once you get there,

* Eat a snack just before arriving at your party,

* Once you’ve arrived at the party, grab some sparkling water and wait at least 30 minutes before making a  food choice. This gives you time to relax, get comfortable in your surroundings and to scope out the food  offerings rationally,

* Location! Location! Location! Position yourself away from the food table. Focus on conversation, not eating,

* ALWAYS follow the “Mindful Eating Techniques” … Before eating anything, take the food to a table, sit  down, take three or four deep breaths, relax, focus full attention on the food while you are eating. If you  want to talk with someone, put the food down and talk. When you want to eat, put your full attention on the eating. Notice the point at which you feel comfortable not full. As soon as you are comfortable, stop  eating. Enjoy and savor every bite. Don’t waste any calorie by not paying attention to what you are eating,

* When you are in control of the party, try new healthy recipes to serve your family or guests. You’ll be  surprised how much this is appreciated,

* Anticipate situations and plan your strategy ahead of time,

* Before the event, visualize yourself using your planned strategies and leaving the party successful,

* Reward yourself for handling the situations as you planned,

* Leftovers are what put weight on. Splurge on the holiday, then get back to normal eating asap.

* Keep up your regular physical activity, even increase it if you can (and why not since your on vacation?), to offset the extra calories.

* Just say no!

Do’s and Don’ts for Holiday Buffets

excerpted from one of Katherine’s SHAPE Magazine articles

Been invited to a holiday buffet? Don’t panic! I’ve surveyed the trendiest holiday buffets to come up with a list of dos and don’ts so you don’t leave the party stuffed with 2,000 calories beneath your belt and 2 pounds heavier the next morning. Which reminds me: This is not the time to be shy, so wear confining clothing. There’s nothing like a death grip around your waist to remind you it’s time to leave the Swedish meatballs behind and start mingling.

Read closely. You may be shocked to find that even if you stick with all the “dos” on my list, your calories will probably top anything you’d be eating at home with your standard 600 calorie dinner. So, be picky. Don’t waste calories when you can enjoy yourself flirting… or caroling!

1. DO! Add sparkling water and a twist of lime to your two ounces of white wine. It’s only 40 calories!

DON’T! Get started with several glasses of wine at 100 calories each!

2. DO! Start with healthy crudites: dip carrot and celery strips – or any other veggies – in salsa!

(each dipped finger-sized veggie stick is about 7 to 10 calories and no fat)

DON’T! Start with chips and dip. Did you know that each dipped chip could set you back 25 calories and 2 grams of fat?? (was that about 10 that you just gulped down in 2 minutes flat?)

3. DO! Savor Smoked Salmon on a whole grain cracker (about 35 calories and 2 grams of fat for 1/2 ounce of salmon and one cracker)

DON’T! Dig into the crispy and creamy appetizers. Bet you didn’t know that tiny egg roll packs in 200 calories and 10 grams of fat! The cheese and crackers? You jest! Each tiny slab (1/2 ounce) of cheese with a Town House cracker is 65 calories and 6 grams of fat

4. DO! Take the edge off your appetite with the filling yet spicy Minestrone or Vegetable Soup at 150 calories and 2 grams of fat per 8-ounce bowl.

DON’T! Fill your bowl with the Seafood Bisque. It’ll pack on 300 calories and 10 grams of fat per 8-ounce bowl.
5. DO! Partake in the chicken or shrimp skewers; the calories and saturated fat are minimal.

DON’T! Nibble on buffalo wings. Your calories will be flying into the stratosphere with those wings – at 100 calories and 7 grams of fat each – and that’s before frying and dipping (add 50 each)!
6. DO! Start with a fresh salad. Heap your plate with fresh, young greens, sliced tomatoes and onions (25 calories at the most) Top with 1 Tbsp of vinaigrette (50 – 75 calories, 5 – 9 grams fat)

DON’T! Start with garlic bread (200 calories for two small slices)

7. DO! Head for the Turkey Carving Station. Enjoy 3 ounces of sliced turkey (imagine a deck of cards). The protein hit will take the edge off your appetite for just 105 calories and 3 grams fat.

DON’T! Head for the Prime Rib Carving Station. It’ll set you back 300 calories and 24 grams of fat.

8. DO! Walk on the Wild Side with a Side of Wild Rice! Only 80 calories and 1 gram of fat per 1/2 cup serving

DON’T! Stuff yourself with Stuffing! About 120 calories and 5 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving

9. DO! Pile on the Grilled Vegetables like red peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini. They’re only 25 calories per 1/2 cup serving

DON’T! Get creamed with the Creamed Spinach. The cream and butter adds 150 calories to the measly 25 for the spinach

10. DO! Spoon up sorbet. It’s cool, it’s refreshing – It’s only 100 calories and zero fat per 1/2 cup.

DON’T! Spoon up the Haagen Daz! It’s 250 calories and 20 grams of fat per 1/2 cup

11. DO! Indulge in a sliver of pumpkin pie. It’s creamy deliciousness is relatively abstemious at 300 calories and 14 grams of fat for 1/8 of a 9” pie

DON’T! Indulge in a sliver of pecan pie. It’ll set you back 500 calories and 27 grams of fat!

12. DO! try a meringue cookie or ginger snap. They’re only about 30 calories a piece

DON’T! grab a chocolate chip cookie with nuts. Even a tiny one is 120 calories.

13. DO! Enjoy hot herbal tea as a night cap to help you sleep (zero calories, zero fat!)

DON’T! Indulge in a brandy. It’s 160 calories for just a 1-1/2 ounce jigger – and that’s before the cream!

Isn’t your priority looking and feeling your best?

Some Lighter alternatives for holiday cookies…

Butternut Squash

photo by Almond Board CA

By Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D.

The coming of fall is symbolized, for each of us, by different events and moments: the first turning of leaves, a bracing snap of cool air, rediscovering forgotten favorite sweaters, children returning to school, the palpable shortening of September and October days.

For me, one of the harbingers of autumn is the huge winter squashes at my local farmer’s market. Squash, technically a fruit, comes in a dazzling array of sizes, shapes and flavors. Butternut is one of the most popular, flavorful and nutritious.

Winter squashes, particularly butternut, are far superior to the summer squashes and zucchini in taste and nutrition because of their deeper color and higher carbohydrate and nutrient content. The most potent squashes are the more deeply colored varieties, especially pumpkin and butternut. Their color is provided by one of the most powerful nutrients: beta-carotene.

Characterized by a chubby bowling pin shape, a buff/beige color on the outside and a deep orange on the inside, the butternut is an exceptional source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant which converts to vitamin A in your body. Beta-carotene is critical for your immune system, your skin, your vision, bones, reproduction, and more. Studies show that people who eat foods high in beta-carotene and people with high blood levels of beta-carotene have a lower incidence of certain cancers. But you won’t get the same results with a beta-carotene supplement. Study after study has shown disappointing results with the supplements. So, only the food will do! But that’s a good thing for us squash lovers.

Apparently, each squash is a bustling little factory of nutrients and phytochemicals, the plant compounds with potent powers of healing. When acting synergistically in a food, these nutrients provide a more powerful health punch than the individual nutrients alone. Some of the most important nutrients in squash are antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and vitamin C, which are powerful substances believed to reduce inflammation, improve immune function and help prevent heart disease and cancers, among other benefits.
But there are other good reasons to eat butternut squash.

Butternut squash is also a great source of fiber (good for your gastrointestinal system), potassium (important for your heart and lowers blood pressure), vitamin C (a great antioxidant important for your skin, bones and healing), magnesium (important for muscle function, the heart, bones, blood clotting, and improves diabetes),manganese (important for metabolism and bone formation) and calcium (important for your heart and bones). And a big plus: it’s low in calories, only 82 calories in a cup (7 ounces) of baked squash cubes.

Interestingly, when you buy canned pumpkin pie filling, you are most likely buying butternut squash – not pumpkin squash, according to Molly Jahn, professor of plant breeding at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Jahn has developed one of the newer and most flavorful varieties of butternut squash, called “bugle.” The bugle, smaller than the usual butternut (3 –4 pounds rather than 4 – 5 pounds) has superior disease resistance and health.

”A healthier plant makes a tastier product,” says Jahn.

The average grocery store probably will not label the variety of butternut squash. So, I encourage you to buy from your local farmer or farmer’s market, where they are sure to know if their butternut squash is a bugle.

The darker the butternut, the more ripe and ripeness adds sweetness, flavor and superior nutrition. You can even eat the seeds of the butternut squash, but the seedcoat should be removed as it’s quite hard. There are known health benefits of pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and, while butternut squash seeds haven’t specifically been studied as much as pumpkin seeds, the benefits are probably similar.

Bon Appetit!

Katherine’s Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Ginger

About 6 servings


1 Small Butternut Squash
4 Cups Water
2 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 Cup Chopped Sweet Onion (about 1 medium)
1 Clove Garlic, crushed (2 cloves, if you like it spicy)
1 tsp Curry Powder (2 tsp, if you like it spicy)
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, about 2 inches, grated (2 Tbsp, if you like it spicy)
1 Cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste

Cut Butternut Squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Place squash face down  in baking pan with 4 cups water. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until soft when pierced by a fork.

While the squash is baking, prepare the aromatic vegetables and spices:  Place the oil in a large iron skillet or soup pot on medium-high.  Add onions and garlic and fry until golden. Stir in curry powder, ginger, and a pinch of salt and simmer on low for a few minutes.

When the squash has cooled to the touch, pour all the water in which the squash was cooked into the skillet and stir to scrape up the bits of aromatic vegetables and spices.  Scoop out the butternut squash meat, leaving the skin, and stir into the mixture in the skillet. When room temperature, puree the vegetable and spice mixture in a blender or food processor with the broth. Better yet, just insert the Cuisinart Smart Stick (my new favorite toy) into the pan, using an up-and-down motion until ingredients are pureed…. So easy, mess-free and YUMMY!

NOTE: Adjust seasonings by adding more salt, pepper or spices, if desired. Adjust consistency by adding more water or broth. Also, any similar winter squash will work well if Butternut is not available.

The entire pot of soup makes about  6 cups and is about 500 calories.

Griffin Market* Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 10 – 12

5 lbs Butternut Squash
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Medium Onions, coarsely chopped
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 Pinch Allspice
2 Pears, peeled, cored and chopped
2 Qts. Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Salt and Pepper to taste
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds or Pecans for Garnish

Cut the butternut squash into pieces no more than one inch thick, discarding seeds. Place squash pieces in a roasting pan and bake at 425 degrees F for 45 minutes or until the squash is very soft. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Pour the olive oil into a large saucepan or stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, thyme and allspice and cook until the onions are light gold in color. Add the onions, thyme, and allspice and cook until the onions are light gold in color. Add the chopped pears and stock and raise the heat to bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.

Scoop the squash pulp from the skins and add to the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Allow soup to cool for 30 minutes, remove the thyme sprigs and puree in batches in a blender on high speed until very smooth. Do not overfill the blender. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper. The amount will vary based on how much salt your stock contained. Serve immediately or cool and divide into freezer containers.

Other varieties of winter squash such as hubbard, acorn, sugar pumpkin, or delicate may be substituted. Roasting time will be shorter for the thinner walled squashes.

*Laura and Ricardo Bonino were the owners of Griffin Market in Georgetown, which is sadly now closed. They specialized in all things Italian. Ricardo and Laura met at Roberto Donna’s Galileo where Ricardo was the sommelier (hence the fine selection of wines found in Griffin) and Laura worked as a chef at Galileo’s exclusive Laboratorio (hence the delicious freshly made delicacies available, too). They now own an Italian restaurant in South Carolina!

© Copyright Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD - Designed by Pexeto