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How to Avoid the Holiday Bulge

Wild rice stuffing

It can be hard to watch what we eat around the holidays. All our favorite foods are served together, the servings are big, and family and friends have gone out of their way to make foods we like. Or we are out shopping more, doing lots of errands, and we eat fast food way too often.

The average American gains five pounds every November–December, and it takes them many months to lose it. Some people never lose holiday pounds, and year after year, they add up.

As with everything, moderation is the key. It is possible to go through the holidays feeling your best, and without needing months to make up lost ground.

With a little planning, you can have treats without harming your health. Pick your favorite foods and eat them in reasonable portions. Skip what’s less important. If you don’t like candied sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows, have a green salad with dinner instead. Use the calories you saved to indulge in your favorite pumpkin pie. It’s all about making good choices.

Try letting your family and friends know that holiday eating is a challenge, and see if you can arrange an activity that doesn’t involve food. Ask them to go to the mall, go caroling, visit a holiday lighting display, see a movie, or just go for a walk.

If you’re invited to a party:

  • Bring a healthy dish you enjoy. That way you know you have something nice to eat.
  • Eat a snack before you leave home. If you arrive hungry, you will probably eat too much.
  • If it’s a buffet, look at all the options and decide which foods are worth eating, and which can be ignored.
  • Don’t stand near the food so you aren’t tempted to graze.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables served raw; you won’t eat too many if you have to chew a lot.
  • If you drink alcohol, have just one glass. Alcohol has almost 50 percent more calories than pure sugar and most mixers are also high in calories—as are beer and wine.

The recipes below can travel easily to a party, Thanksgiving dinner or other holiday occasion. Not only will your dish be a healthy choice for you, it will be healthy for everyone who eats with you.

Wild Rice Stuffing

(pictured at top)

You can make this ahead and heat in the microwave before serving.

4 tablespoons butter
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
4 tablespoons fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
4 tablespoons fresh tarragon, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 cup diced water chestnuts, fresh or canned
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, rinse if salted
3 cups low-sodium turkey or chicken broth or water
4 cups cooked rice (1/2 white or brown rice, 1/2 wild rice)

Cook 2 cups raw wild and white or brown rice in 3 cups low-sodium broth or water (this will become 4 cups once cooked). Sauté onions, mushrooms, apricots and cranberries in butter. Add water chestnuts, pistachios and rice. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add fresh herbs, put in greased baking dish and bake about 30 minutes in 350 degree oven. You can reheat in microwave. Serve with turkey. You can double or triple this recipe and freeze it; it keeps well for months.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 171, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Protein:  5 g,  Sodium: 65 mg

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

This pie has less than half the calories of regular pie. Make ahead and take it cold.

1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1-1/4 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Pillsbury pie shell

Soak gelatin in cold water. Beat egg yolks slightly. Add pumpkin, sugar, milk and spices to egg yolks and cook over hot water in double boiler or in microwave until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stirring often. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Cool. Whip egg whites until stiff. When pumpkin mixture begins to set, stir in 1/2 cup sugar and fold in egg whites. Fill pie shell, chill 4 hours or overnight.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 170, Carbohydrates: 24 g, Protein: 6g, Sodium: 136 mg

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

Katy WilkinsContributor Katy Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. A recipient of the Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award from the National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at