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Ways to scale back carbs during the holidays and beyond

  • Los Angeles Times
  • Published Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, at 10:52 a.m.

Thanksgiving is but one day. So enjoy it (in moderation, of course). After all, it’s what you eat the remaining 360-something days of the year that really determines your clothing size.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 130 grams of carbohydrates a day. But many Americans eat at least twice that amount. Here are many easy ways to trim the carbs in your diet by 50 percent by focusing on cutting back on processed food, empty calories and portions.

1. Your guilt-free party drink this holiday season? Wine spritzer.

2. No need to abandon Friday night pizza. How about use half an English muffin, roasted portobello mushroom cap or broiled inch-thick slices of eggplant. Pile on the toppings.

3. No need to abandon Saturday night burgers. How about use two roasted portobello mushroom caps as the “buns” for your cheeseburger. Pile on the toppings. Or eat your cheeseburger served atop a salad or wrapped in lettuce, no bun necessary.

4. Does your Sunday begin with pancakes? Pour on the syrup, slather on the butter, but just eat one.

5. There is no law that says Thai and Indian curries must be served over rice. Try ladling your curry over chopped and roasted broccoli or cauliflower.

6. Speaking of cauliflower: The rage in the Paleo community is “cauliflower rice” as a nutrient- and fiber-rich way to stick to your diet and still enjoy a Thai panang or a chicken tikka masala.

7. Love spaghetti and meatballs? Try the meatballs on a cup of roasted spaghetti squash.

8. Personally, I think the sauce is the best part of any pasta dinner. Ask nicely and your waiter might bring you a grilled chicken breast covered in the pasta sauce of your choosing. Order a green salad on the side and call that a treat meal for the history books.

9. Make your macaroni and cheese with roasted veggies instead of pasta.

10. Dying for a baked potato with a steak? Make it a small red potato. Go for a little butter and a dollop of sour cream.

11. Salad for dinner? Ask your server to hold the croutons or fried tortilla strips.

12. Save the big bowl of strawberry ice cream for an occasional after-dinner treat. Instead, reach for a 6-ounce serving of plain Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of strawberry jam swirled in. Tuck it in the freezer for about 15 minutes before diving in.

13. Try to get in the habit of enjoying fresh, seasonal fruit as your dessert. Experiment with frozen grapes, persimmon slices drizzled with fresh lime, just enough to keep you from running for the ice cream.

14. A Mexican restaurant can actually be a great option when watching carbs. Enjoy a handful or two (not a basketful) of chips and salsa. Then order the veggie-rich fajitas, hold the tortillas, rice and beans.

15. Devour those huevos rancheros, but skip the tortilla at the bottom of the heap.

16. If you are hankering for a slice of pie, try microwaving a half cup of sweet potato and then mashing it with a bit of butter, a pinch of pumpkin pie spice and a teaspoon of sugar.

17. If you do plan to eat pie, just eat the interior and the golden brown edge of the crust.

18. Reach for an apple instead of apple juice. (It’s just too easy to overdo juice.) But if you insist on juice, make it 2 ounces of juice topped off with sparkling water.

19. Don’t put it in your shopping cart. Don’t bring it in your house. We’re talking junk food (chips, sugary sodas, etc.). If you must, enjoy it at a friend’s house when it’s served, or go for the portion-controlled bag of chips or can of soda when ordering lunch. Just don’t put it in your shopping cart, and don’t bring it into your house.

20. Use a large romaine leaf as the “bread” for your ham and cheese.

21. How about a salad on a salad? If you like tuna salad, egg salad or chicken salad for lunch, serve it on a bed of greens instead of between two slices of bread.

22. Make lasagna using zucchini strips that you lightly brown in a non-stick skillet. Or eggplant planks!

23. Make your sandwich with one slice of bread, cut in half. Pile on the same amount of lettuce, tomatoes and other goodies. Who cares if it all hangs over the edge?

24. At lunch with friends, opt for a simple green salad as your side offering, and be the big spender who springs for a plate of fries for the table. Eat your salad, enjoy just a handful of fries and you’ll have the best of both worlds.

25. If you order something decadent at a restaurant, start out with a simple green salad as your appetizer. (If you don’t see it on the menu, ask.) When your entree arrives, enjoy a few bites, but don’t eat the whole thing. If you fill up on greens, there’s a good chance you won’t need to lick your plate clean. Speaking of which …

26. Turn in your membership to the Clean Plate Club. Don’t feel compelled to eat it all, especially at a restaurant with enormous serving sizes.

27. When you think about it, crackers are often tasteless and have no nutritional value. And they are really just a way to transport cheese to your mouth, right? Alternatives: Eat the cheese solo, or atop thinly sliced coins of carrots or cucumbers, or on crispy, crunchy bell pepper strips.

28. When you are jonesing for something indulgent after dinner, consider an ounce of a really sharp cheddar served with half an apple sliced thin. (Save the other half of the apple for the next day’s breakfast or lunch. Just trim off any brown parts.)

29. Another option for indulging in moderation: Conspire with a like-minded diner. Share a healthful entree-sized salad as your starter, and then split a slightly more decadent entree.

30. Whole, fresh food is best. But protein powders can make a great meal substitute in a pinch. When choosing protein powders, scrutinize labels for lurking carbs or artificial sweeteners. (One option: Find a protein powder without any flavorings or chemicals, and dress it up with your own fruit. Just watch portion sizes.

31. Two words: Light beer. Try it. You might like it. And if you are the type who enjoys three or four beers while watching football on a Sunday afternoon, it won’t kill you to enjoy your favorite beer for the first quarter and then make the switch to light.

32. We saved the best for last: It’s Thanksgiving. And you can’t choose among the three homemade pies at the buffet. Take slivers of all three and enjoy a few bites.

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