Healthy Holiday Eating

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Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, lasagna, cookies, pumpkin pie. The list of holiday foods—which are in front of your face for almost two months straight—goes on and on. But if you aren't careful about what you put in your mouth, you're going to pack on the pounds. Besides slowing you down, the extra weight can increase your risk of injury. To avoid these pitfalls, read on for some holiday eating advice from Leslie Bonci, nutrition consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Appetizers/ hors d'oeuvres
Salted nuts is one of Bonci's top choices. "I always worry about my athletes not getting enough sodium," she says. This key electrolyte—needed for maintaining proper fluid balance—reduces the risk of dehydration. Bonci recommends eating just a handful, because one ounce of mixed salted nuts has about 14 grams of fat, so she also recommends munching off the:

  • Fruit tray [1C pineapple & cantaloupe: 64 cal // 0g fat // 16g carbs // 1g protein]
  • Veggie tray [1C cauliflower & carrots: 38 cal // 0g fat // 8g carbs// 1g protein]
  • Tortilla chips & salsa [10 chips w/ ½C salsa: 109 cal // 3g fat // 20g carbs // 3g protein]

Think twice before downing soda, especially pre-activity. "It takes too long to empty from the stomach," Bonci says. Likewise, forgo high-fat drinks, like eggnog, which can deliver nearly 350 calories and 20 grams of fat. Instead, she suggests water or a sports drink. Post-activity, go for:

  • Low fat milk [8 fl. oz.: 100 cal // 2g fat // 12 carbs // 8g protein]
  • Hot cocoa w/ skim milk [6 fl. oz.: 166 cal // 3g fat // 27g carbs // 9g protein]

Main dishes
For protein, Bonci suggests ham. "A lot of people think ham is fatty, but it's so lean," she says. Or, try the dark turkey meat, which has more iron than white meat. Iron helps deliver oxygen to your muscles, which means you won't tire as easily during activity.

  • Turkey [3 oz. light and dark meat: 117 cal // 5g fat // 1g carb // 16g protein]
  • Ham [4 slices: 183 cal // 10g fat // 4g carbs // 19g protein]

Bonci suggests mashed or sweet potatoes. "They're a great source of carbs and usually don't tend to be too fatty." To maintain balance on your plate, she recommends that sides take up no more than one-third of the space.

  • Mashed potatoes [1C: 174 cal // 1g fat // 37g carbs // 4g protein]
  • Stuffing [½ C: 177 cal // 9g fat // 22g carbs // 3g protein]
  • Lasagna [1 oz piece: 249 cal // 8g fat // 27 carbs // 17g protein]

Don't completely avoid desserts, but know that some choices are better than others. "Pumpkin pie rates as a nutritionally wonderful option," Bonci says. [One slice has about 229 calories and 10 grams of fat.] Even fruit based pies are okay to have—just go for slivers, not slabs, because, as Bonci reminds us, "you've got to be able to perform when the holidays are done." Other options include:

  • Blueberry pie [1 slice: 271 cal // 12g fat // 41g carbs // 2g protein]
  • Shortbread cookies [4 cookies: 161 cal // 8g fat // 21g carbs // 2g protein]

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock