Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Keeping holiday calories under control

Minestrone soup with a baked Parmesan crouton (a sliced baguette topped with Parmesan and broiled).

Most of us have had multiple holiday dinners to attend. That includes me. It started with several Thanksgiving meals, blossomed into a Friday night out with family on the Friday before Christmas, then continued on to Christmas Eve dinner, then Christmas. We haven't even made it to New Years yet! How can you possibly keep calories under control?
"Fancy" grilled cheese made with fontina, provolone, prosciutto and baby spinach leaves.
Before being flipped on the countertop griddle.

Here's some great ideas I picked up from my mom this year (where I'm positive I got my deep-seeded interest in food!). Each year, she hosts our family Christmas Eve dinner; usually with an Italian theme. I'm her assistant (or Martha, as she calls me. Yes, as in Martha Stewart). This year we planned a menu including: olive tapenade with pretzel thin crackers and multi-colored cherry tomatoes, homemade minestrone soup with a Parmesan crouton, spring mix salad with lemon vinaigrette, "fancy" grilled cheeses and an array of mini desserts. Our hors d'oeuvres and dinner menu included nutrient-packed foods that I would consider the perfect "comfort foods" for a chilly Christmas Eve. Bonus: much lighter fare than the typical holiday dinner. A lovely, festive and satisfying menu that's as simple and delicious as they come (and provides some much-needed calorie savings in the midst of the season).

Mini red velvet cakes dusted with powdered sugar.

My other advice for staving off the holiday bulge? Be active! When you're with family and friends, it's a great opportunity to get in some calorie-burning activity that's a little out of your normal routine. Go for a walk or hike, take the kids to the park or play a game that requires movement. This year after Christmas dinner, I was sweating to Dance Party 2 on the Wii! It felt great. Honey, you better not post that video on YouTube...

Mini shells with strawberry-rhubarb filling
and peppermint-flavored white chocolate pieces.

The holidays will involve food--and lots of it. But that's not what it's really about! I always try to remember to cherish the time with my family and friends. It helps me keep my hands out of the hors d'oeuvres! And if you do gain a pound, get right back on the horse after the holidays are over. It won't matter in the grand scheme of things.
Get the kids involved too! My nieces created place cards for our table.