If ever you need incentive to wash the dishes after a holiday feast, consider what a little sudsing might do for your hips.
Activity — whether through the gym, sports or household chores — is your best friend during the gluttonous holidays, the key to indulging in pumpkin toffee cheesecake without looking or feeling like one yourself.
The American Council on Exercise a few years ago estimated the average holiday dinner packs 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat. Add in the snacking and drinking you do throughout the day, and you’ve ingested about 4,500 calories, the council said — a sure path to weight gain, as 3,500 calories makes a pound, and the average person hoping to maintain their weight is supposed to consume 2,000 calories (for women) or 2,500 (for men) a day (though that varies by height, weight and activity level).
So what does it take to burn it off?
Fighting the turkey coma and getting your backside off the couch is a good start. After that, any number of activities, from the vigorous to the mundane, can melt calories.
Take cooking, which requires reaching, bending and mixing. If you’re the one slaving in the kitchen all day, you really can earn yourself a slice of pie (though mind the mindless grazing).
Here’s a list of some popular holiday fare, with the amount of exercise you’d have to do to burn it off.
The per-serving nutritional information is based on recipes on the Better Homes and Gardens website (bhg.com). The exercise calculations are from everydayhealth.com/calorie-counter.aspx and assume a 150-pound person; it takes longer to burn off the same number of calories if you weigh less.
Note that the meal here has a total of only 2,081 calories. Better Homes uses low-calorie and fat-free substitutes in most of the recipes, so your own homemade versions may have higher calorie and fat content, especially when you reach for second helpings.
Chef and registered dietitian Rebecca Cameron, owner of hautenutrition.com, offered ideas for making each of these holiday favorites healthier.
Calories: 201 Fat: 13g (7g saturated) Sodium: 71mg
• Burn it off: 23 minutes of touch football or 47 minutes of bowling
• Health tip: If you’re buying from the store, a soy nog or light eggnog trims calories and fat considerably. If you’re making from scratch, find a recipe that uses nonfat milk, fat-free half-and-half and fewer egg yolks. You can compensate with a thickener like cornstarch or vanilla pudding mix and a flavoring agent like vanilla extract, citrus zest and cinnamon or nutmeg.
Calories: 113 Fat: 4g (1g saturated) Sodium: 142mg
• Burn it off: 13 minutes of moderate biking (11-15 mph) or 56 minutes of washing dishes
• Health tip: Try baking the latkes instead of frying. You can also use sweet potatoes instead of baking potatoes or add roasted vegetables, cauliflower or zucchini to the pancakes to increase nutrients and fiber.
ROAST TURKEY AND STUFFING
Calories: 392 Fat: 19g (5g saturated) Sodium: 343
• Burn it off: 35 minutes of running (6 mph, a 10-minute mile) or 53 minutes of brisk walking
• Health tip: Remove the skin and stick to white meat, which will reduce the fat by about 3 grams per 3 ounces of meat. For the stuffing, try substituting half the butter with applesauce, and instead of pork sausage try turkey sausage.
MASHED POTATOES AND GRAVY
(Made with butter-flavored sprinkles instead of real butter)
• Burn it off: 23 minutes on the elliptical trainer or 54 minutes of vacuuming
• Health tip: Cook potatoes in chicken broth instead of water for more flavor, or try a more flavorful potato like Yukon Gold, caribe or purple potato. Save calories by using half mashed potatoes mixed with half pureed cauliflower. You can also increase flavor when reducing calories by adding ingredients like garlic, white pepper, fresh herbs, scallions or caramelized onions.
Calories: 398 Fat: 9g (5g saturated) Sodium: 103 mg
• Burn it off: 39 minutes on the stair-stepper or 61 minutes of light freestyle swimming
• Health tip: Try reducing the butter and swapping out some of the sugar for orange juice, light maple syrup or sugar substitutes like Splenda. Add flavor with pineapple, apples or cranberries.
GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
Calories: 121 Fat: 6g (1g saturated) Sodium: 330mg
• Burn it off: 13 minutes of push-ups or 31 minutes of beginner Pilates
• Health tip: Try a low-sodium, low-fat mushroom soup and use caramelized onions instead of fried onions. If the recipe calls for heavy cream, swap it out for fat-free half-and-half or decrease the amount of butter used in the recipe.
CLASSIC GINGERBREAD MAN COOKIE
Calories: 58 Fat: 2g (1g saturated) Sodium: 41mg
• Burn it off: 5 minutes of jumping rope
• Health tip: You could replace some of the butter or shortening with applesauce or prune puree. Or try slightly lighter gingerbread biscotti. Or just have a cookie and watch your portion size.