This holiday season, most families will have the traditional turkey, cranberry sauce and a pumpkin pie, without which it wouldn't qualify as a holiday meal. The one thing that usually falls off the list of must-haves is sensibility, says one University of Alabama at Birmingham expert.
"Many of us toss our typical eating plans and healthy-living strategies to enjoy the winter festivities and just expect to gain weight during the holiday season," says Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., a wellness coordinator and adjunct professor in the UAB Department of Human Studies.
But if you play the holiday season by the numbers, you can have your pie and eat it, too, Whitt says.
"The average adult consumes about 3,000 calories in one Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. This figure can easily increase to more than 4,500 calories when you account for eating the rest of the day," Whitt says.
To put this in perspective, the average adult female typically takes in about 2,000 calories a day, while men are eating about 2,500. Doubling up on the caloric intake for one day can be detrimental to your weight and your overall health.
"In order to lose one pound of fat, a person must burn 3,500 calories more than they consume," Whitt explains. "In order for a 160-pound person to burn off the 3,000 calorie meal, they would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles."
Yikes. No time for that kind of exercise in between watching the big game or hitting the sales to find that perfect gift? Whitt offers tips to drop that whopping one-meal calorie count down:
•Remove turkey skin to deduct 50 calories
•Switch from whole milk in mashed potatoes to fat free or skim — or consider using new potatoes instead, which have less sugar
•Enjoy one less piece of bread: cornbread is about 200 calories a piece, and each dinner roll will cost you 80
•Opt for a fresh dessert instead of a baked one: a single slice of pumpkin pie is packed with about 350 calories and Southern pecan pie has more than 500 calories. A fresh fruit sorbet: only about 100 calories
"I can't stress enough how important portion control plays into the bottom line. If your portions are twice the size they should be, even if you don't go for seconds, your caloric intake will be exceptionally high," Whitt says.