Health

Eat the rum balls – and lose weight!

This year, indulge without regret with a few simple secrets from the pros

It’s holiday party time again, that time of year you love to hate. Love buying cute little sparkly tops and sophisticated shoes. Love to sip the latest cocktail and stay out past 11 p.m. on a school night. Love to have “just one more” of the itsy bitsy blue cheese and pecan canapés. Hate when the New Year rolls around and those teeny weenie treats have landed on your hips and thighs. This year can be different. Take your cue from our list of tips and suggested party-day meal plan and you can have your canapés, rum balls and maybe even lose weight too.

It’s not the Last Supper If your motto is, “The diet starts tomorrow,” we’re talking to you. This line of thinking leads to eating desperately, explains Kate Hays, a Toronto psychologist. You may think, “This is the last rum ball I’m ever going to eat so I’m going to eat five right now.” Instead, savour a few bites of your chosen treat, because food pleasure generally takes place with those first few nibbles.

Work out less You may not have time for an hour-long aerobics class, but, done right, mini workouts can be just as beneficial at revving your metabolism and burning off a second glass of eggnog. You can burn the same number of calories doing 20 minutes of interval exercise (one minute of sprinting followed by two minutes of easy jogging, for instance) as you would going for a 60 minute walk, says Martin Gibala, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. The key is to “go hard” during the intervals – reaching more than 85 per cent of your maximum heart-rate – but then easing off during recovery so you are ready to go hard again. Invest in a heart rate monitor and consult with your doctor before starting a new workout regime.

Don’t talk with your mouth full Besides being bad manners, if you eat while talking you’re not paying attention to what’s going into your mouth and will likely eat more. It may sound like silly psychobabble but being mindful can be the difference between gaining and losing weight this holiday season. Have you ever found you downed an entire plate of cocktail nibblies and don’t remember what anything tasted like? “Misallocating our attention leads us to eat without being fully aware,” explains Cornell University professor Brian Wansink, author of the new book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (Bantam). So put down the plate and enjoy the conversation.

Have a tall drink If you drink from a tall glass, you’re likely to drink less (which means fewer calories) than if you drink from a short, wide glass, according to Wansink’s research. This is because we associate height with more volume. So pass on that short punch glass and reach for a long, lean champagne flute.

Get your zzz’s If you’re not getting enough sleep your body won’t produce sufficient serotonin, the hormone that helps you feel content and relaxed. As a result, you may turn to carbs that also produce this happy hormone. So stop yourself from reaching for that second bagel by getting an extra half an hour of pillow time.

If you know you have a nighttime event where you’ll be tempted by lots of festive goodies, plan ahead by eating well during the earlier part of the day. Alberta registered dietitian Caroline McAuley suggests this party-day menu. It’s nutritious, high in fibre and leaves room for a few holiday treats.

Breakfast

1 cup Raisin Bran cereal
½ cup of 1 per cent milk
½ a sliced apple with skin
Calories: 352
Fat: 4.1 grams

Lunch

1 medium bran muffin with 2 oz sliced low-fat cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups of salad with: 1 oz or 22 almonds, 1 tbsp dried cranberries, 1 tbsp raspberry vinaigrette, ½ cup non-fat yogurt, fruit flavour
1 cup coffee or tea, unsweetened
Calories: 618
Fat: 24.5 grams

Snack

1 small Asian pear
Calories: 51
Fat: 0.3 grams

Party!

½ whole-wheat pita cut into strips with 1 tbsp hummus
2 pickled asparagus stalks rolled in a slice of extra-lean ham
1 cup veggies with 2 oz cucumber and dill dip using low fat yogourt
1 oz cashews or 8 rice thins or rice crackers
4 large shrimp with 1 tbsp cocktail sauce
½ cup cut-up fruit dipped in whipped topping
1 oz pretzels dipped in dark chocolate
1 3.5 oz glass dry white wine
2 glasses sparkling water
Calories: 808
Fat: 24

Day’s Total

Calories: 1,829
Fat: 52.9 (26% of calories from fat)