The holiday season is already upon us, and that means plenty of get-togethers and dinners. Which also means you’re practically left at the mercy of giant spreads of savory snacks and desserts. It’s only human to want to give in to the temptation of overeating when accosted by all those rich tender roasts and thick-crusted glazed pies.
But with the average holiday dinner containing about 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat, which is more than twice the daily number of calories and three times the daily recommended fat intake, maintaining a healthy weight is certainly off the cards.1 2 3
Agreed, the holidays are not the time for counting calories, since it’s synonymous with celebrating bounty, but you don’t want to start the new year battling weight loss either. This is why you want to keep your eyes peeled for these 5 holiday food staples that also happen to be weight-fighting superfoods.
While turkey meat pretty much has an entire holiday dedicated to it, this bird is often substituted by other meats like chicken or beef. Unknown to many, however, this nutritional powerhouse is not only versatile but is also a great way to get your protein without worrying about all the bad things that usually come with meat.
Low-fat white meat turkey and skinless turkey breasts are the portions you should be going for. This will prevent your cholesterol levels from peaking since it is low in saturated fats and will also keep you full for a longer time, thus preventing you from overeating. Packed with B vitamins, potassium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus turkey gives your body a good dose of nutrients that will boost your immunity and protect you from cardiac disease.4 It also contains selenium, an antioxidant that is absolutely essential for preventing thyroid and metabolic problems – two more factors that can keep weight gain at bay.5 By stabilizing your blood sugar levels, turkey is also very helpful for preventing diabetes, a condition that can further contribute to putting on extra weight.
A portion of turkey breast (without skin) weighing approximately 100 grams contains about 161 calories, 30 grams of protein, and just 4 grams of total fat.6 Stay away from the deep-fried preparations that come slathered with fatty gravy and you’re well in the clear.
If you can’t do Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, nutritionists have great news for you. 116 grams of pumpkin gives you about 30 kilocalories of energy and just 0.12 grams of fat, which means your body will have enough to generate energy from without useless fatty deposits.7 This member of the squash family also packs a powerful punch of fiber and vitamin A.8 Fiber sticks around in your tummy for longer because it takes longer to digest. This is why pumpkin is such a great option for weight-watchers because it keeps you feeling full and prevents you from reaching out for unhealthy treats that make your blood sugar levels spike.
Vitamin A, on the other hand, is a powerful micro-nutrient that boosts your vision and immunity, makes your skin appear fresh and youthful, and improves bones and teeth health.9 10 11 Plus, pumpkins contain beta-carotene, a plant-based pigment your body uses to make vitamin A. This pigment doubles up as a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from oxidative damage by harmful free radicals, thus keeping cancer at bay.12 While there is no evidence that beta-carotene supplements may help prevent cancer, some studies claim that naturally-acquired beta-carotene may keep cancer at bay. All the more reason to help yourself to more pumpkin!
Pumpkin has a moist, understated flavor that makes it such a versatile ingredient when it comes to low-fat dessert. With the help of skimmed milk and egg substitutes, you can easily whip up a healthy, yet great-tasting dessert with some pumpkin. Another tip? Bring your own pie to a dinner party. That way you’ll know what’s in it and you won’t end up gorging on high-fat dessert.
Nothing spells Christmas like cinnamon does. And this magical spice is perfect for those determined to maintain their weight this holiday season. Cinnamon helps your body produce and regulate insulin, the main hormone that’s responsible for stabilizing blood sugar and keeping our appetites steady.13 It also fights off insulin resistance and boosts your immunity which can have a huge positive impact on not just your weight, but also on your overall health.14
Furthermore, cinnamon contains cannabinoids that play an important role in regulating sleep patterns and keeping our moods steady; so go ahead and add generous sprinkles of it to your cocktails and sweet treats!15
When we think of cinnamon, we can’t help but let our minds wander to luscious, rosy apples. Add the two together and you can conjure up endless possibilities, from pies and rolls to cookies and jams. What’s more, the addition of apples into preparations would benefit our weight as well!
Apples are a great source of fiber. Every 100 grams of apples gives you about 2.4 grams of dietary fiber that can take a long time for your stomach to digest.16 This also means they promote the slow release of insulin into the bloodstream and keep your stomach full for longer – two factors that are responsible for preventing hunger cravings and unhealthy snacking.17 Plus, the cholesterol-lowering phenolic compounds in apples also go a long way in fighting off weight gain.18
5. Sweet Potato
Another Thanksgiving staple, the weight loss wonders of this tuber are perfect for those looking to control their calories.
Agreed, sweet potatoes have their fair share of carbohydrates (about 26.7 grams per 133 grams), but they also increase the overall levels of the blood sugar-regulating hormone adiponectin.19 Plus they also rank relatively low in low glycemic index rating, which means it prevents blood sugar spikes after a meal. Regulating blood sugar levels is super important for people trying to maintain their weight as this helps stave off “sugar crashes” and consequent cravings that make you reach out for unhealthy snacks. Certain studies show that low-glycemic foods are useful for promotion satiety and hence preventing weight gain.20 No wonder sweet potatoes are great dietary choices for diabetics!21
Furthermore, sweet potatoes are also high in fiber (4 grams per 133 grams), which once again, means longer hours of feeling full, and fewer chances gorging on fattening donuts and bagels.22
The best part about sweet potatoes is that they’re naturally sweet without the refined sugar overload. This also makes them perfect baking ingredients, because the recipe won’t call for adding too much sugar either. As long as you don’t inflict them with high-calorie holiday sabotage like dousing them with butter or marshmallows and stick to the boiled, steamed, or roasted versions, you can indulge yourself just fine without having to fight flabby deposits later.
|↑1||Stuff the Bird, Not Yourself: How to Deal with the 3,000 Calorie Thanksgiving Meal. Calorie Control Council.|
|↑2||What should my daily intake of calories be? National Health Services.|
|↑3||Reference intakes explained. National Health Services.|
|↑4||Marangoni, Franca, Giovanni Corsello, Claudio Cricelli, Nicola Ferrara, Andrea Ghiselli, Lucio Lucchin, and Andrea Poli. “Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing: an Italian consensus document.” Food & nutrition research 59, no.1 (2015): 27606.|
|↑5||Calvo, Luis, Fidel Toldrá, Ana I. Rodríguez, Clemente López‐Bote, and Ana I. Rey. “Effect of dietary selenium source (organic vs. mineral) and muscle pH on meat quality characteristics of pigs.” Food science & nutrition 5, no. 1 (2017): 94-102.|
|↑6||Turkey for the Holidays. University of Illinois Extension.|
|↑7||Basic Report: 11422, Pumpkin, raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑8||Gilbert, Clare. “What is vitamin A and why do we need it?.” Community eye health 26, no. 84 (2013): 65.|
|↑9||Mukherjee, Siddharth, Abhijit Date, Vandana Patravale, Hans Christian Korting, Alexander Roeder, and Günther Weindl. “Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety.” Clinical interventions in aging 1, no. 4 (2006): 327.|
|↑10||Kafi, Reza, Heh Shin R. Kwak, Wendy E. Schumacher, Soyun Cho, Valerie N. Hanft, Ted A. Hamilton, Anya L. King et al. “Improvement of naturally aged skin with vitamin a (retinol).” Archives of Dermatology 143, no. 5 (2007): 606-612.|
|↑11||Park, Chan-Kyeong, Yoshiko Ishimi, Mineko Ohmura, Michio YAMAGUCHI, and Sachie IKEGAMI. “Vitamin A and carotenoids stimulate differentiation of mouse osteoblastic cells.” Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology 43, no. 3 (1997): 281-296.|
|↑12||Van Poppel, Geert, and R. Alexandra Goldbohm. “Epidemiologic evidence for beta-carotene and cancer prevention.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 62, no. 6 (1995): 1393S-1402S.|
|↑13||Tapsell, Linda C., Ian Hemphill, Lynne Cobiac, David R. Sullivan, Michael Fenech, Craig S. Patch, Steven Roodenrys et al. “Supplement-Health benefits of herbs and spices: The past, the present, the future.” Medical Journal of Australia185, no. 4 (2006): S1.|
|↑14||Anderson, Richard A., C. Leigh Broadhurst, Marilyn M. Polansky, Walter F. Schmidt, Alam Khan, Vincent P. Flanagan, Norberta W. Schoene, and Donald J. Graves. “Isolation and characterization of polyphenol type-A polymers from cinnamon with insulin-like biological activity.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 52, no. 1 (2004): 65-70.|
|↑15||Fine, Perry G., and Mark J. Rosenfeld. “The endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids, and pain.” Rambam Maimonides medical journal 4, no. 4 (2013).|
|↑16||Basic Report: 09003, Apples, raw, with skin. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑17||Hyson, Dianne A. “A comprehensive review of apples and apple components and their relationship to human health.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 2, no. 5 (2011): 408-420.|
|↑18||Boyer, Jeanelle, and Rui Hai Liu. “Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits.” Nutrition journal 3, no. 1 (2004): 5.|
|↑19||Basic Report: 11507, Sweet potato, raw, unprepared. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑20||Juanola-Falgarona, Martí, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Núria Ibarrola-Jurado, Antoni Rabassa-Soler, Andrés Díaz-López, Marta Guasch-Ferré, Pablo Hernández-Alonso, Rafael Balanza, and Mònica Bulló. “Effect of the glycemic index of the diet on weight loss, modulation of satiety, inflammation, and other metabolic risk factors: a randomized controlled trial.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 100, no. 1 (2014): 27-35.|
|↑21||Ooi, Cheow Peng, and Seng Cheong Loke. “Sweet potato for type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev 9 (2012).|
|↑22||Basic Report: 11507, Sweet potato, raw, unprepared. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑23||van Jaarsveld, Paul J., Mieke Faber, Sherry A. Tanumihardjo, Penelope Nestel, Carl J. Lombard, and Ambrose J. Spinnler Benadé. “β-Carotene–rich orange-fleshed sweet potato improves the vitamin A status of primary school children assessed with the modified-relative-dose-response test.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 81, no. 5 (2005): 1080-1087.|
|↑24||Hayase, Fumitaka, and Hiromichi KATOI. “Antioxidative components of sweet potatoes.” Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology 30, no. 1 (1984): 37-46.|
|↑25||Al-Okbi, Sahar Y. “Nutraceuticals of anti-inflammatory activity as complementary therapy for rheumatoid arthritis.” Toxicology and industrial health 30, no. 8 (2014): 738-749.|
|↑26||Li, Peng-Gao, Tai-Hua Mu, and Le Deng. “Anticancer effects of sweet potato protein on human colorectal cancer cells.” World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 19, no. 21 (2013): 3300.|