Holiday Weight Gain Not Inevitable

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By some estimates, U.S. adults can gain up to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day by splurging on foods they might otherwise avoid or eat in moderation throughout the rest of the year. However, experts say the trend is avoidable, and there are several simple steps holiday revelers can take to prevent weight gain.

Helen Thompson, a registered dietitian and director of the Colorado chapter of America on the Move, says anyone watching their weight should aim to cut 100 calories from their daily diet and add 2,000 steps (1 mile) to their day, a moderate walking activity that can be completed in 15 to 20 minutes.

"These two steps alone can improve people's overall health and help them avoid the weight gain usually associated with the season," said Thompson, who works at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Thompson and her colleague, Elizabeth Kealey, also a registered dietitian at the CU Center for Human Nutrition, have come up with practical tips to help the health conscious cut 100 calories from their diets and stay on track through the holiday season:

  • Snack on raw vegetables while cooking.
  • Drink a tall glass of water before eating.
  • Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables -- and go easy on the sauces and dressings.
  • Drink cider instead of eggnog or choose non-caloric beverages.
  • Use fat-free sour cream and cream cheese when preparing dips.
  • Use whipped butter or low-calorie tub margarines.
  • Substitute chicken stock for butter when making gravy and stuffing.
  • Enjoy the pie filling -- leave the crust.
  • Try raw vegetables instead of tortilla chips with dips.
  • Enjoy favorite foods, but limit portion sizes.
  • Use a smaller plate to control portions.
  • Eat a light snack to curb your hunger before going to a party.
  • Position yourself away from the holiday buffet table.
  • Talk more, eat less.

As for exercise, Kealey said the holiday season is a great time to create new traditions such as walks around the neighborhood to view holiday decorations, tag football and other active games, or power walking at stores and malls while doing post-Christmas shopping.

-- © 2007 King Features Synd., Inc.

HOLIDAY BAKING MADE EASY

What would the holiday season be without the inviting aroma of desserts baking in the oven? While cookies topped with sugared sprinkles or icing may be the normal treats left out for Santa, he may be looking for something different as he heads down your chimney this year.

With the advent of convenience baking items, all it takes are a few ingredients and some simple know-how to make delicious desserts for the holidays -- or year-round. Personalize desserts made from pre-packaged ingredients with garnishes to give them a "spent-all-day-at-the-oven" illusion.

That's the idea behind "Blueberry Cheesecake Bars," a prize-winning recipe submitted for Betty Crocker®'s "Mix It Up with Betty! Cookie Mix Recipe Contest." It pairs the delicious taste of oatmeal cookies with the decadent appeal of cheesecake. Enjoy!

Blueberry cheesecake bars

Love cheesecake? Add a blueberry layer, and delight in every creamy bite of this cheesecake bar.

1 pouch Betty Crocker® oatmeal cookie mix

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 egg

3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup whipping cream

3 eggs

1 jar (10 oz) blueberry spreadable fruit

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed and drained) whole blueberries

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Spray bottom and sides of 13- by 9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, beat cookie mix, butter and egg with electric mixer on low speed until soft dough forms. Press in bottom of pan.

2. Bake 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in another large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add whipping cream and eggs; beat on low speed until well blended.

3. Spread spreadable fruit over partially cooled crust. Sprinkle with blueberries. Pour cream cheese mixture evenly over blueberries, spreading gently to cover.

4. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until center is set. Cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. For bars, cut into seven rows by four rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

-- From Metro Creative Connection

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