UF Nutritionist Says Holidays Need Not Be A Weighty Problem

Published: December 20 2000

Category:Health, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Take a touch of restraint, a pinch of planning, oh, and hold the denial please.

A University of Florida nutritionist says this is the perfect recipe for individuals looking to get through the holiday season with a minimum of weight gain.

People need to remember that weight gain can happen through the entire holiday period that continues past New Year’s Day, said Linda Bobroff, an associate professor in the department of family youth and community sciences with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“People don’t gain weight in one or two days but over a period of time,” Bobroff said. “It’s not unusual for individuals who spend a lot of their holiday time preparing food, partying and not exercising to gain several pounds.

“And if we do that consistently year after year the pounds do add up,” she said.

Bobroff said several strategies can help people minimize holiday weight gain. They include planning for eating situations and looking for ways to make traditional recipes healthier. But she said one thing people shouldn’t try to do is skip foods that make the holidays special.

“You don’t want to deny yourself the pleasures of the holidays,” Bobroff said. “And one of those pleasures is enjoying special holiday foods.”

Bobroff said rather than denial, holiday party-goers should rely on planning and moderation to help them get through the season.

“If there is going to be a buffet, plan ahead and eat something light before going so you are not starving,” Bobroff said. “Take a little bit of things that look very good, then walk away from the buffet and socialize, making sure you eat slowly and really enjoy the food.”

But what about when entertaining at home? Bobroff said a little creativity can yield a menu that is low in fat yet still tasty and traditional.

“One option is to change some of your favorite recipes to make them a little bit lower in fat or calories,” Bobroff said. “For example, in a recipe that calls for a mixture of meat and vegetables, add lots of extra vegetables and use less meat.

“We can also select a lean cut of meat and trim off all of the fat,” she said. “We especially want to include green and orange vegetables, which are great sources of vitamins and minerals.”

Another recipe modification Bobroff recommends is for that perennial holiday staple — pumpkin pie. According to Bobroff, the half-and-half called for in many recipes contributes fat and calories.

“One of the things we can do is to substitute evaporated low-fat or evaporated skim milk for the half-and-half.” Bobroff said. “The pie might have to cook a little bit longer, but it really tastes very good — it has the same flavor and it’s just a little bit less rich.”

But to really cut the calories, Bobroff said cooks can substitute orange juice for the dairy ingredients with perfectly satisfactory results.

“This is a nondairy way of enjoying pumpkin pie during the holidays,” Bobroff said.

Bobroff said a nondairy pumpkin pie would allow strict vegetarians (vegans) or individuals who can’t digest the milk sugar lactose to enjoy the traditional dessert.

But Bobroff pointed out that it takes more than modifying recipes to help keep the weight off over the holidays.

“We have to look at both parts of the calories in-calories out equation and try to be physically active,” Bobroff said. “Instead of just watching football on TV, get out and play some touch football with your family or friends.”

“Or at least take a walk after dinner,” she said.


Ed Hunter
Linda Bobroff, lebn@mail.ifas.ufl.edu, (352) 392-1895

Category:Health, Research