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Just in Time for Holiday Parties: Eat/Drink This, Not That

It happens to all of us this time of year. We gain a few extra, unwanted pounds during the holidays. Not just from our favorite, traditional holiday fare, but also from partaking in a few more beverages, especially the alcoholic ones, than normal.

As a registered dietitian at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, I strive to make sure patients are well nourished, both for their overall health and to build up their bodies for undergoing cancer treatment. To help you combat splurging on the calories during the holiday season, here are some recommendations, starting with drinks…

Beverages are sneaky, especially alcoholic beverages, which could have just as many calories as high-fat foods.

Drink this:  Spiced chai tea. Chai tea contains about 100 calories per serving and includes a variety of ingredients that have health benefits such as cloves, cardamom, black tea, ginger, and cinnamon sticks. Potential benefits are digestion, antioxidants, blood sugar support, and anti-inflammatory factors.

Not that:  Creamy homemade hot cocoa. Hot chocolate can contain 300 calories or more per serving and is high in saturated fat as well as added sugars.

Drink This:  Champagne or light beer. The average flute of bubbly has 80 calories and no fat, and a bottle of light beer has just over 100 calories and no fat.

Not That:  Eggnog and creamy martinis. If you must partake, limit these to one serving: Eggnog has an average of 344 calories and 19 grams of fat per glass! Dessert cocktails like chocolate martinis pack around 400 calories and 20 grams of fat.

Drink This:  Vodka and club soda with a lime. Club soda has zero calories, zero fat and zero sugar.

Not That:  Gin and tonic. Tonic water can actually have as many calories as a regular cola.

Upon arrival, scan the buffet table to see the options available before you start filling your plate, and then decide what items you really want to eat.

Select a dessert or appetizer plate instead of the large dinner plate which will help with portion control. Most importantly, chew slowly.

It takes about 20 minutes for the signal to go from our stomach to our brain to let us know we are full. In addition, remember that parties are for socializing, so concentrate on having conversations with your family and friends instead of filling up on food.

Eat this:  Egg white mini quiches. You can add nitrate-free lean turkey breast, spinach, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, or your veggie of choice. Skip the cheese and utilize garlic powder, turmeric, or your spice of choice to not only help decrease fat and total calories, but to add in additional health benefits including anti-cancer support. You can top with diced fresh tomato and cilantro. Mini quiches can be 50 calories or less per quiche.

Not that:  Cheese pinwheels. These can be 200 to 300 calories a piece depending upon ingredients used, and can be at the higher end of that range if crescent rolls are used. You can make these healthier by making two simple changes: use whole wheat tortilla over crescent rolls, and reduced-fat cheese over full-fat cheese.

Eat this:  Shrimp cocktail, Swedish meatballs or chicken kebabs. These are high in protein and low in fat. For example, 10 shrimps with cocktail sauce pack just 120 calories and less than 1 gram of fat.

Not that:  Mixed nuts. Almonds and cashews are very healthy and packed with protein, fiber and healthy fat. The problem comes when you eat more than the appropriate portion. One cup of mixed nuts has a jaw-dropping 814 calories and 70 grams of fat. Either skip the nuts, or count out 15-20 pieces on your plate so you have a reasonable portion (approximately 150 calories).

Eat this:  Strawberry shortcake. Can be 150 to 200 calories per serving and you can feel good about the fact you are consuming healthy strawberries in the process.

Not that:  Pecan pie. A piece of this pie can be 400 to 500 calories per slice not to mention the additional fat and calories that would be added if pairing it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, which is certainly common.

This article was guest written by Matt Rinehart, MS, RD, CSO, LD, Clinical Oncology Dietitian Team Lead at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southwestern Regional Medical Center