Friday, November 28, 2008

Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance

(HealthDay News) -- Ready, set, eat.

On Thanksgiving Day, the average American will consume 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat at the average holiday feast, according to a tally provided by the American Council on Exercise.

That's the caloric equivalent of 5.5 Big Macs from McDonald's, or 15 Supreme Tacos from Taco Bell, according to ACE.

But even if just these facts make you feel stuffed, you still don't have to go cold turkey on the turkey and trimmings to eat healthily.

There are ways to minimize calories and still keep the flavor and fun, said Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian in Burbank, Calif., and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Step one is awareness on how a traditional Thanksgiving dinner can add up to more than 3,000 calories, she said. She breaks it down the following way:
  • Egg nog -- 684 calories and 36 grams of fat for two cups
  • Dark turkey meat --187 calories and 7.2 grams of fat per 3.5-oz serving
  • Candied sweet potatoes -- 286 calories and 7.8 grams of fat per cup
  • Green bean casserole -- 366 calories and 26 grams of fat per cup
  • Cranberry sauce -- 86 calories, 0 grams fat, per slice
  • Mashed potatoes -- with whole milk and butter -- 222 calories and 9 grams of fat per one-cup serving
  • Gravy -- 30 calories and 2 grams of fat per 1/4 cup
  • Dinner rolls -- 340 calories and 8 grams of fat without butter (add 202 calories and 24 grams of fat per 2 tablespoons butter)
  • Corn bread stuffing -- 180 calories and 9 grams of fat per cup
  • Pumpkin pie -- 316 calories and 14 grams of fat per slice
  • Pecan pie -- 502 calories and 27 grams of fat per slice
  • Wine -- 100 calories, 0 grams fat per 5-ounce glass
  • Grand tally: 3,501 and 170 grams of fat, a bit above the ACE calorie estimate and a bit below its fat gram prediction.

"The average Thanksgiving meal would be between 2,500 and 4,000 calories," Frechman said. Clearly, that's much more than the average person needs, but with a little restraint and keeping it to a one-day splurge, not that much damage will be done, she added.

"If you know you are going to overeat, balance it with physical activity," Frechman said. "Try to incorporate other things besides eating, such as going for a walk before or after dinner."

Another winning strategy: take a smaller portion of everything so you won't feel deprived, she said.

And keep the day's most important goal in mind.

"The purpose of this is to get together with family and friends, so focus more on the socializing than the food," Frechman said.

More information
To learn more about healthy eating, visit the American Dietetic Association.

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