In this, the latest of our "7 Questions with..." series, Diet-to-Go chief editor John McGran sits down with TODAY Show regular Joy Bauer to get the skinny on holiday weight gain and the foods to enjoy -- and avoid -- this Thanksgiving.
Diet-to-Go: Let's bust this holiday myth once and for all: Are we really doomed to gain 7 pounds over the holiday season?
Joy Bauer: No, that's a myth, thank goodness.
The average weight gain during the holidays is actually "only" around 1 pound, but that can add up year after year-so you definitely want to be conscious of your choices and on guard against excessive holiday splurging.
DTG: What are some simply tips for avoiding holiday weight gain?
JB: Here are three powerful tips to help you fight holiday weight gain.
By keeping your portions in check, you can enjoy every highlight of your favorite holiday meals without going overboard. Stick with just ONE of each deliciously tempting hors d'oeuvre, one plate of food, one alcoholic drink, and one dessert (or a sliver of two, if you can't decide).
Your schedule may be even more hectic than usual, but it's more important than ever to make time for exercise.
Staying active helps you burn off extra calories from stuffing, rich desserts, and other holiday indulgences, and it's also a great way to counteract the stress that often accompanies family get-togethers and holiday planning.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day. And if your routine is getting boring, try something new.
I have a fun, new DVD workout (Joy Bauer's Slimdown Workout) coming out this month...just in time to add some variety to your holiday exercise plan.
Choose a few days and special events that you look forward to all year and plan to indulge at those celebrations. The rest of the season, stick to your normal, healthy eating and exercise habits. Remember - a few blowouts a year will not have a significant impact on your weight as long as you don't prolong the festivities. As I always tell my clients - they're called holiDAYS, not holiWEEKS or holiMONTHS!
DTG: At the Thanksgiving table, which traditional foods should I fill up on and which foods should I pass on?
JB: Enjoy a generous portion of skinless turkey (as long as it's skinless, feel free to enjoy dark or white meat-the calorie and fat difference isn't substantial). The protein in the turkey will help you feel full on less food.
Also load your plate with any vegetable side dishes-if they're made with heavy sauces or lots of cheese, just try to go light on the sauce. You don't have to completely pass on starchy, high-cal sides like stuffing and mashed potatoes, but have just one spoonful instead of a heaping mound.
And pay attention to the liquid calories, too (wine, beer, egg nog, cider, cocktails, etc.)-alternate between caloric and non-caloric beverages like water or seltzer to help you space out your drinks.
DTG: Despite tremendous news coverage of America's growing obesity problem, we're getting fatter as a nation. What's going on here... what are the main causes of this epidemic?
JB: There are a lot of causes. We're living in a very "obesogenic" environment today.
We're surrounded by high-cal, starchy, sugary, fatty foods, portion sizes have dramatically increased, families have less time to prepare healthy meals so we're eating out more often, we're drinking a lot of extra calories in the form of soda, sweetened waters, and other sugary drinks, and we're snacking more often throughout the day.
On top of that, our lives are much more sedentary than in previous generations-technology has reduced the need for physical activity, desk jobs are more common, and kids are less active because they're spending more time in front of televisions, computers, and phones.
So, there are a lot of problems that we need to work on solving simultaneously. It's a huge challenge... but NOT impossible.
DTG: What are the first steps you have clients make to get back on track?
I have first-time clients fill out a 3-day food diary listing everything they've eaten over the last 72 hours. This tool helps me identify each clients' personal problem areas-maybe it's snacking after dinner, deceptively high-cal meals at restaurants, or too many liquid calories from sweetened waters, fruit drinks, or fancy coffee concoctions. Even if people can't see a nutritionist, they can keep a food journal online, in a notepad, or on their cell phone to track calories and help find their personal trouble spots.
DTG: I love your book Slim and Scrumptious: More Than 75 Delicious, Healthy Meals Your Family Will Love, but what do you tell those women and moms who say they just can't find the time to cook healthy, delicious meals?
JB: Here's what I recommend: Build an arsenal of five simple, fast, healthy meals that you can prepare in 30 minutes or less, and keep all the ingredients for at least two of these meals on hand at all time.
For example, whole grain pasta with ground turkey meat sauce (using jarred tomato sauce) and a side of frozen broccoli. Or, healthy grilled cheese (using reduced fat cheese and whole grain bread) with canned low-sodium vegetable, lentil, or black bean soup.
The key is "simple, healthy and delish."
DTG: What can I do to give my New Year's weight loss resolution a fighting chance of working this year?
JB: Don't focus solely on your "end goal" (especially if you have a considerable amount of weight to lose). I think long term-goals are terrific, but short-term goals can be even more powerful because they reinforce success every step of the way.
I advise people to set a new, measurable, concrete target for themselves at the start of each week (either a pound goal, like "lose 2 pounds this week," or a diet/fitness-related goal, like "walk for 30 minutes 6 days this week" or "don't snack after dinner this week").
Achieving these mini-goals reminds you that hard work does pay off and constantly feeds your motivation so you don't abandon your resolution a few weeks in.
Joy Bauer MS, RD, is America's favorite and most trusted nutrition expert. Her mission is to improve the health of our nation; she believes it's never too late or too early to reap the benefits of healthy living. As the nutrition and health expert for the TODAY show, Joy shares reliable, practical and straightforward advice that helps millions of Americans eat better and lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. For more information, go to www.joybauer.com
Author: John McGran