By Laurel House
Just because the season of eating is now upon us doesn't mean you have to gain weight. Yes, you can beat the holiday bulge by doing a little party prep when it comes to both food and fitness. The key is going in with a plan, then maintaining just enough willpower to keep yourself from doing your diet in and being forced to let your pants out.
Top Chef's Stefan Richter, who has prepared healthy fare as chef at Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, The Bellagio in Las Vegas and now recently opened his new restaurant Stefan's at LA Farm in Santa Monica, knows exactly what diet-devastating ingredients are hiding in even the most innocent looking appetizers, sides and entrees. Whether you're grazing on passed hors d' oeuvres or preparing a sit-down feast, here are Stefan's tips to cut the fat and stay slim this season:
Beware of Hidden Fat
Soups, salads and appetizers may seem "light" since they are served on smaller plates or brimming with healthy greens, but beware of the pitfalls that hide in the seemingly innocent little servings. Stefan's words to the wise? Avoid anything Creamy, Puffed, or Fried:
-Creamy = Cream
This includes Artichoke Dip, Cream or anything Soup, even the Ranch or Onion Dip that you slather on carrot sticks. Just because vegetables are involved doesn't mean they are healthy. In fact, they are essentially vegetable-flavored cream, cheese, and sour cream.
-Puffed = Butter
If it's puffed it's filled with butter. Forget about Mini-Quiches, Pigs in a Blanket, and Spanacopita. Even if it's filled with spinach, tomato, or chicken breast, the calories and fat you are eating from the buttery puff pastry can be as much or more than your entire entrée plus dessert!
-Fried = Oil
French Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, Vegetable Tempura, even Fried Garnishes are completely saturated with oil. If you take a bite and your tongue feels coated, that's oil. And it's likely not the healthier olive oil. It's not worth it.
-Request Salad Dressing on the Side
You may think that loading up on the already-dressed salad is a good idea. Think again. Stefan enlightens us with the fact that many restaurants pour on 4-5 tablespoons of dressing per salad. At an average of 8 grams of fat per tablespoon that's between 32 and 40 grams of fat- more than a hamburger!
So What Passed-Apps, Soups And Salads Can You Eat?
-Vegetables (lightly dipped)
Stefan suggests that you bring your own veggies. "Just sneak a little baggie of carrots into your purse," and lightly dip them into the dip, just enough to flavor them without coating them.
-Hummus with Vegetables
They may be served with pita chips or bread, but you've got your personal stash of veggies instead.
As long as they aren't fried, oysters are a great healthy option.
Soy beans are packed with vitamins and nutrients, plus they are simply steamed and naturally healthy.
Made with garlic, tomatoes, plus a little olive oil, bruschetta is a good way to feel like you are eating a lot without bulking you up.
Add Flavor Without the Fat
Stefan has a couple of go-to tricks that he depends on to add flavor without fat:
-I Can't Believe it's Not Butter- Mediterranean Blend (made with olive oil)
Perfect for mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, or just on bread… pretty much anything that is flavored with butter. But Stefan reminds us that you can't get a sear with it. This is not a a cooking butter, it is a flavoring butter.
To enhance flavor, Stefan uses fresh herbs. "Forget dried herbs. What's the point? There are so many beautiful fresh herbs that add so much more flavor. And they are cheap! Grow them in your garden or in a pot in your windowsill."
-Tabasco Chipotle Flavor
Hot sauce has almost no calories, but gives a lot of flavor in even the smallest amounts. "I put hot sauce on everything. It's like eating brown rice without anything on it tastes awful, add soy sauce or tobacco and it's eatable."
-1 tbsp of Stuffing and Mashed Potatoes
Instead of piling your plate with fat-filled stuffing and mashed potatoes, limit yourself to a tablespoon of each. But don't indulge on them right away, first eat your turkey and greens, then, when you are craving that rich flavor for the stuffing or potatoes, have just a small bite but really enjoy that flavor in your mouth. So often we wolf down food without thinking about it, without tasting it. You can satisfy yourself by savoring the flavor without filling your stomach. You don't want to wake up in the morning and say, "hmm, what's that on my thigh? Oh that's right, it's mashed potatoes."
-Artificial Sweetener Kill Sweet Cravings
One of Stefan's favorite tricks to curb craving for sweet is artificial sweetener. "If you are still craving something sweet after dinner, open a pack of artificial sweetener and put it on your tongue. It will kill your sweet craving for a month. Let me tell you, I've been doing it for years!"
Holly Perkins, B.S. an ExerciseTV Trainer and the New Balance Fitness Ambassador helps keep her clients fit regardless of bikini or turkey season with these no-brainer tricks that probably didn't cross your mind:
Work Out Hard Right Before a Holiday Party
Reason #1: Exercise is an Appetite Suppressant.
When it comes to working out, keep in mind that exercise is a great appetite suppressant. On the days when you know will be attending a potential diet disaster (ie, party), do 25 minutes of intense exercise as close to the party as possible. Intense exercise immediately before eating (or as close to it as possible) will decrease your appetite which means you will eat less at the party. Even with a packed holiday schedule, yes, you can squeeze in 25 minutes to move- no excuses.
Reason #2: Exercise Boosts the Metabolism.
More than eating less, intense exercise significantly boosts the metabolism so that any food you do eat will be burned off more quickly instead of storing it as belly fat.
Boost Metabolism (or Thanksgiving tips) video
No Time For A Pre-Party Trek to the Gym? Jump Around!
Any mode of exercise will do, even if you have to jump around your house for 25 minutes. Pick an activity, warm up for 5 minutes, then work HARD for 20 minutes. Not only will this extra boost of movement do some preventative holiday party diet damage control, but you might actually lose weight and tone up to so that you look even better for next week's events!
At the very least, work your abs! Try Lia Montelongo's Target Tone ab workout below:
Start Training for an Endurance Sport
Sure, some people say that the holiday season is the WORST time to begin a new exercise endeavor because it requires time during the busy holiday season. But that's the point! That "time" requirement is exactly what you need to stay slim despite the onslaught of festivities requiring that you show your face (which often also means stuffing it). Now is, in fact, the perfect time to pick up a new endurance sport- like completing a half marathon (13 miles for you newbies). The training will keep you on track and burning off those extra calories during the holiday season. Plus, the chill in the air is a great motivator to move that butt faster, harder and longer so you can work up a sweat and stay warm! More than burning off the consumed calories, you will likely be less inclined to chow down knowing that you will be up and at 'em bright and early the next am to train. Then, at the start of the New Year when everyone around you is resolving to "finally" get fit… you already will be!
…Because sweater season is not an excuse to bulk up.
Save big on all ExerciseTV's top workouts this holiday season. Find something for everyone from experienced bootcampers to fitness beginners. Click on the image to SAVE NOW.