There’s still leftover Halloween candy strewn around the house, the start of the holiday party season is just weeks away and dropping temperatures are making hearty comfort food look far more appealing than the salad bar. Winning the battle of the bulge this time of year can be especially challenging. Here are six strategies.
1. Spirits, away
Holiday cheer often involves plenty of boozy calories. But there’s an easy way to include alcohol in a healthy diet: Skip the sugary cocktails and stick to vino.
“A glass of red wine at 100 calories per serving is a better selection compared to mulled wine, a combination of wine, cider, honey and sweet liquor that pours an additional 50 calories and 7 teaspoons of added sugar into your glass,” says Catherine Hauser, a dietitian with F-Factor.
2. Go crazy with cauliflower
Instead of loading up on carb-rich mashed potatoes, Carlo Filippone of Elite Lifestyle Cuisine recommends subbing the tubers for mashed cauliflower. “It has tons of potassium and it’s high in vitamin C,” he enthuses. To make the mash, boil florets until tender and puree in a food processor with a bit of olive oil, stock or milk, and your favorite spices.
Dietitian/nutritionist Lauren Minchen says that the vegetable is also great in lieu of rice. “[You can] cut 100 to 150 calories and 20 to 40 grams of carbs.”
3. Don’t sweat the sweets
Tame your sugar cravings by adhering to the three-bite dessert rule. “The first taste is the best, then two more to indulge,” says nutritionist Amy Shapiro of Real Nutrition NYC. “After that your brain isn’t really registering the flavor anymore — you are just eating for sport.”
Another option? Skip dessert altogether and order a cappuccino. “Dust the top with cinnamon and sip away while everyone else indulges,” she says. And, go ahead and order it with whole milk. “It will feel decadent without pushing you over the edge.”
4. Sub out the pasta
“Spaghetti squash is super easy to prepare and can be used in place of pasta,” says nutritionist Lisa Jubilee of Midtown’s Living Proof nutrition counseling. Just cut the squash in half, remove seeds and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Scoop out the filling and top with your favorite spaghetti sauce.
“Unlike with pasta, you can feel free to eat a nice-sized portion of this spaghetti, with only 42 calories per cup.” If gutting a gourd is too daunting a task, then opt for store-bought black-bean spaghetti. “It is both high in plant-based protein and fiber to keep you satiated,” says Brooklyn-based nutritionist Maya Feller.
5. Party smart
Scope out the food first. “Always do a full loop of the buffet table before you put anything on your plate, decide what you want, [fill your plate once] — and then walk away,” says dietitian Mandi Pek.
Another strategy? Only choose one of the three “c’s” — cake, carbs or cocktails — advises Real Nutrition NYC’s Shapiro. “Picking one per event keeps your calories down and your waistline small,” she says.
6. Soup it up
Another bulge-battling basic is to start your meal with a satisfying bowl of soup. “It fills you up without a lot of calories and leaves less room for the heavier entree,” says Shapiro.
But, be careful. “It can add up quickly with heavy calorie- and fat-laden choices,” says dietitian and nutritionist Lauren Minchen. Make sure to go for something broth-based — like chicken or vegetable — instead of a creamy soup.