Your Guide to Healthy Holiday Eating

Mix mom’s famous mashed potatoes with an endless string of parties with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and subtract time to workout. Then add the stress of shopping and an optional dash of family drama and you’ve got a recipe for weight gain this holiday season.

In a 2011 Consumer Reports survey on what Americans dread most about the holidays, weight gain tied for second with going into debt (in even less shocking news, long lines took top honors). It’s easy to see why.

“During the holiday time, we have a lot of gatherings centered around eating,” said Andrea Fornarola Hunsberger, the founder, director and master trainer of Elements Fitness in East Hampton.

Studies differ as to how much weight people really gain over the holidays. Some say 1 pound, others say 10. Neither has to be you, and you especially don’t have to be on the high end of that scale. Just follow Fornarola Hunsberger’s recipe for holiday eating success and you’ll be able to eat, drink and be merry without eater’s remorse.

Here Come the Hors D’oeuvres

Passed and buffet-style hors d’oeuvres and appetizers are holiday party staples. From mini-hot dogs and sliders to shrimp cocktails, a good party will likely have a ton of options to choose from, and many of them contain a whole lot of fat and salt.  “Meat and cheese platters have a lot of sodium and a lot of calories,” Fornarola Hunsberger said. She suggests nibbling on vegetable crudités, which have fiber that will keep you from feeling famished until dinner is served. Raw shrimp is also great because it packs protein that will fill you up. If you have to have a carb-cheese-and-protein app, eat in moderation (yes, you will need to limit yourself to one). Or remove the carb.  “If you’re going to have an hors d’oeuvres, omit the carbohydrate,” she said. “Usually, they’re made of white flour and don’t metabolize well.” So have the cheese without the cracker or take the slider off the bun.

The Sample Guy in the Food Court is Just Calling Your Name

No, he isn’t, and neither is his teriyaki chicken platter. Here’s the thing: shopping is actually something of a workout, especially during the holiday time. You’re walking around a ton, carrying heavy bags. “You need to fuel the body like you would for a workout,” Fornarola Hunsberger advised. That means a complex carb and some protein.Fornarola Hunsberger loves an egg white sandwich or wrap with avocado, which burn slowly and keep you fuller longer. During her shopping trips, she stashes a low-sugar granola bar in her purse and eats that instead of making friends with the person holding the sample tray. “If you’re gluten intolerant, carrots and celery are a great option,” she recommended. “And stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.” It is a workout, after all, which is pretty awesome if you ask us.

It’s Not Thanksgiving Without Your Mom’s Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Fried Potatoes…

The sit-down meal can be the toughest of all. There are so many traditional dishes that you’ve been eating your entire life. Don’t worry, you can keep that tradition going. “You don’t want to deny yourself,” Fornarola Hunsberger warned. “If you deny yourself, you’re going to gorge yourself later. You’re going to think about it all night and at 2am you’re going to want it.” Schedule in workouts before and after Thanksgiving. At her studio in East Hampton, Fornarola Hunsberger hosts pre- and post-Thanksgiving classes. “Pre-turkey burn is major cardio and then we stretch it out,” she laughed. Then, eat in moderation. Read up on suggested portion sizes so you’re armed with info heading into the meal. After you’ve eaten a reasonably sized slice of pie, Fornarola Hunsberger suggests brushing your teeth.  Clean your palette. It’ll make you say, ‘ok, I’m done now,'” she said.

Drink Responsibly

With all the things going on this time of year, it’s understandable you want to let loose and have a drink…or five. As hard as it may be, try to stick to one drink. It’ll not only prevent you from consuming a ton of empty liquid calories, it’ll help keep your will power in check when the aforementioned passed hors d’oeuvres guy comes by for the 17th time. Prosecco is a great lower-calorie option if you’re looking for something bubbly. “If you want liquor, don’t mix your liquor with anything that’s fruit juice,” Fornarola Hunsberger said. It’s only adding sugar and calories to your system. Go for a vodka and club soda, maybe with a lime for garnish if you want to get fancy. “Then you’ll be only consuming calories from the alcohol and not everything else with it,” she said.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Remember those traditional Thanksgiving dishes that you could not pass up? Grandma’s phenomenal chocolate covered cherry Christmas cookies are just as tempting. You can have your cookies and eat them, too, but this year, try substituting ingredients for butter.  “Sometimes I even use Greek yogurt instead of butter in baking recipes. I find that it makes cookies and brownies lighter and it removes the fat content,” Fornarola Hunsberger said. Canola oil and even applesauce can be great alternatives, too. If you’re hosting, Fornarola Hunsberger suggests putting out some seasonal fresh fruit. “It usually tastes really good after a heavy meal, and it’s hydrating, will make you feel fuller and will satisfy your sweet tooth,” she raved.

Work It Out

We get it. You have shopping to do, parties to attend and gifts to wrap, but as Fornarola Hunsberger likes to say: Your health is your wealth. “There are a lot of opportunities to consume excessive calories. Maintaining your general health and well-being is important,” she said. Schedule them around your events. Fornarola Hunsberger suggests hitting up a barre class in the morning and bringing your shopping clothes with you to change into. “One of the good things about barre class is that you can still maintain your [schedule] and workout in the morning and aren’t dripping in sweat,” she said. And when you go shopping, Fornarola Hunsberger loves to get friends cute workout gear. “They’ll feel good when they wear it,” she said.

beth ann clyde

beth ann clyde

Beth Ann Clyde is a social strategist of Long Island Pulse. Have a story idea or just want to say hello? Email or reach out on Twitter @BAClyde.