Sidestep high-calorie holidays with strategies from TOPS

Staff reports

For many of us, food is an important part of the holiday season. Family gatherings feature meals consisting of high-fat, high-calorie temptations that can sabotage even the most dedicated of otherwise healthy eaters. TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, recommends strategies that will allow you to navigate common food-centered traps while still enjoying festive celebrations without regret. Consider the following “smart swapping” tips to ensure that the turkey is the only one stuffed this season:

· Choose two slices of skinless turkey breast over a drumstick to save calories and reduce fat and cholesterol.

· Avoid using boxed stuffing mix and, instead, make your own with whole grain bread and turkey or chicken sausage. Increase the nutritional value by incorporating fruits, such as apples, pears, and cranberries, or almonds and walnuts.

· Canned cranberry sauce often contains excess amounts of high-fructose corn syrup. Make your own cranberry sauce by pureeing dried cranberries in orange juice and water, or substitute the sauce with fruit-flavored gelatin.

· Replace candied sweet potatoes with mashed or baked sweet potatoes. Replace heavy cream in the mashed potatoes with low-fat buttermilk and add a vegetable that can be easily mashed, such as turnips or green onion. Olive oil and dried or fresh herbs liven up roasted red potatoes with minimal calories.

· Commonly known as “cocktail franks” or “pigs in a blanket,” bite-sized hot dogs are always a popular appetizer but laden with sodium and fat. Instead, snack on mini quiches for a tasty dose of protein that keeps you full.

· Steer clear of crab cakes, which are typically breaded and deep-fried. Enjoy pieces of steamed or boiled shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce for a calorie-light alternative.

· Swap potato chips and dip for the equally satisfying crunch of veggies. Dip into hummus or salsa for a low-calorie, flavorful topping.

· For a sweet snack, enjoy an apple baked with cinnamon and nutmeg instead of an overly-indulgent caramel apple.

· Pecan pie contains high amounts of sugar and fat – up to 800 calories per slice. Choose pumpkin pie for a rich, creamy dessert, and make it even healthier by using evaporated skim milk and egg substitute.

· Consisting of heavy cream, eggs, milk, and sugar, egg nog is a classic holiday beverage. But even without the addition of alcohol, this drink can still spell disaster for those who are watching their weight. Try homemade hot chocolate and leave off the whipped cream to partake sensibly.

With these simple tradeoffs and a bit of discipline, you will be able to celebrate the season without feeling deprived – but just as satisfied.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss education and support organization, was established more than 61 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., TOPS promotes successful weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness education, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, and several chapters in Europe.

   TOPS LA 422 Prairieville meets on Thursday evenings at Broussard Grove Baptist Church. For more information call Linda at 647-2606 or visit TOPS at to find a chapter near you.