Learn serving sizes
How to avoid extra holiday pounds
Taking control of holiday leftovers can help you lose weight and live a healthy life.
Are you starting a cancer prevention diet and wondering how to nibble and nosh your way through the holidays — without loosening your belt or playing the Grinch? The holiday season can be a challenge for everyone especially when it comes to eating healthy, being active and cancer prevention. Avoiding those extra pounds during this time is even more of a challenge.
If you pay attention to serving sizes and take control of leftovers, you may find you still can zip your favorite jeans when Jan. 2 rolls around. And, that’s good news because most people gain a little more than a pound during the holidays.
That weight gain doesn’t usually come from overeating during one or two meals. It’s from feasting on leftovers over several days, which can pack on hundreds of extra calories.
“Most people don’t shed the extra holiday weight and just keep adding pounds year after year,” says Lindsey Wohlford, wellness dietitian at MD Anderson. “And, unhealthy weight gain can put you at greater risk for diseases like cancer.”
Planning ahead can help you avoid weight gain and help you stay on track this holiday season.Wohlford offers these tips to help you take control of leftovers.
Keep servings small
Whether you’re eating a holiday meal, snacking on appetizers at a party or indulging in leftovers, keeping off the extra pounds starts with portion control. It’s OK to savor a taste of foods you’ve waited for all year, but keep servings small.
To figure out what a healthy portion is, it helps to visualize a similar size item. For instance:
- Gravy or cranberry sauce: golf ball (one-fourth cup)
- Turkey (white meat): deck of cards (3 ounces)
- Stuffing: ice cream scoop (one-half cup)
- Pie: light bulb (one-eighth of a 9-inch pie)
Women should try to keep each meal to around 500 calories or less; men should strive for 700 or less. Before the holiday feeding frenzy begins, find the calorie counts and serving sizes for your favorite holiday foods by using our Serving Size Cheat Sheet.
Make a game plan for leftovers
Making plans for your leftovers can help you stay in control of your calories after the main meal has ended.
“Right after a holiday meal, divide all leftovers into one-half cup servings,” Wohlford says. “Refrigerate enough for a day or two and freeze the rest.”
Leftovers aren’t just for reheating. Turn holiday leftovers into new healthy dishes by reusing these foods.
Skinless, white turkey meat
- Whip up your favorite chili recipe, but use skinless, turkey breast instead of ground beef.
- Wrap turkey breast, spinach leaves and two tablespoons of cranberry sauce in a whole wheat tortilla.
- Mix in a healthy helping of cooked vegetables for a new twist on this side. Try cauliflower, broccoli, green beans or carrots.
- Make a protein-packed sandwich spread or veggie dip by pureeing one-half cup sweet potatoes with one-half cup chickpeas. Eat only one or two tablespoons at a time.
- Use stuffing instead of bread crumbs to make a meatloaf dish. Be careful not to eat more than one medium slice (about 3 ounces or the size of a deck of cards).
Share the bounty
One surefire way to avoid overindulging is to get leftovers out of your sight. Here’s how:
- Give guests “doggie bags.” Have containers ready to speed up the process.
- Give leftovers to relatives or friends who don’t cook or join the festivities.
- Donate canned or boxed foods, as well as unopened store-bought baked goods, to a food bank or homeless shelter.
Pick and choose foods carefully
“At every meal, choose one dish from each category of food,” Wohlford says. “For example, eat one side item, one main dish and one dessert. Keep each serving to around one-half cup and make fruits and vegetables the biggest part of your meal.”
You’ll thank yourself for the gift of trimmer holiday meals in January — and quite possibly for years to come.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.