Health & Fitness

Diet Detective: Avoid sabotaging your diet during the holidays

Christmas cookies
Christmas cookies Getty Images

The holidays are here, filling our days with oodles of excitement, presents, good cheer and, of course, food. Parties, gift baskets, drinks, repeat.

I’m not telling anyone not to eat and enjoy, but keep in mind that there is a cost — a caloric cost. The truth is, most of us have no idea what a calorie is worth. We may know the definition, but, think about it: What is a calorie’s value?

One way to determine that is to translate calories into exercise and see which foods are splurge-worthy. Here’s a list with some calorie-to-exercise comparisons that just might motivate you to either exercise restraint, or add some extra workouts to your holiday schedule.

Prime rib: 1/2 pound, 675 calories

174 minutes walking

96 minutes biking

72 minutes running

82 minutes swimming

230 minutes of yoga

115 minutes dancing

Cheese lasagna with meat sauce: 9-ounce slice, 490 calories

126 minutes walking

70 minutes biking

52 minutes running

60 minutes swimming

167 minutes of yoga

83 minutes dancing

Honey-glazed ham: 6 ounces, 210 calories

54 minutes walking

30 minutes biking

22 minutes running

26 minutes swimming

71 minutes of yoga

36 minutes dancing

Cracker with cheese: 1 cracker, 71 calories

18 minutes walking

10 minutes biking

8 minutes running

9 minutes swimming

24 minutes of yoga

12 minutes dancing

Christmas cookies: 2 cookies (1 ounce each), 136 calories

35 minutes walking

19 minutes biking

14 minutes running

17 minutes swimming

46 minutes of yoga

23 minutes dancing

Fruitcake: 3.5-ounce slice, 325 calories

84 minutes walking

46 minutes biking

35 minutes running

40 minutes swimming

111 minutes of yoga

55 minutes dancing

Pecan pie: 1 slice (1/8 of an average pie), 503 calories

130 minutes walking

71 minutes biking

54 minutes running

61 minutes swimming

171 minutes of yoga

86 minutes dancing

Cocktail peanuts: 3 ounces (about 90 nuts), 510 calories

131 minutes walking

72 minutes biking

54 minutes running

62 minutes swimming

173 minutes of yoga

87 minutes dancing

Candy cane: one 1/2-ounce cane, 55 calories

14 minutes walking

8 minutes biking

6 minutes running

7 minutes swimming

19 minutes of yoga

9 minutes dancing

Homemade pumpkin pie: 1 slice (1/8 of an average pie), 316 calories

81 minutes walking

45 minutes biking

34 minutes running

38 minutes swimming

107 minutes of yoga

54 minutes dancing

Beef franks in blankets: 5 pieces, 290 calories

75 minutes walking

41 minutes biking

31 minutes running

35 minutes swimming

99 minutes of yoga

49 minutes dancing

Mini crab cakes: 4 pieces, 70 calories

18 minutes walking

10 minutes biking

7 minutes running

9 minutes swimming

24 minutes of yoga

12 minutes dancing

Chicken fingers: 2 pieces, 240 calories

62 minutes walking

34 minutes biking

26 minutes running

29 minutes swimming

82 minutes of yoga

41 minutes dancing

Cheddar cheese cubes: 2 cubes (1 ounce total), 110 calories

28 minutes walking

16 minutes biking

12 minutes running

13 minutes swimming

37 minutes of yoga

19 minutes dancing

Dinner roll: 1 large (3 1/2 inches in diameter), 136 calories

35 minutes walking

19 minutes biking

14 minutes running

17 minutes swimming

46 minutes of yoga

23 minutes dancing

Ritz crackers: 5 crackers, 80 calories

21 minutes walking

11 minutes biking

9 minutes running

10 minutes swimming

27 minutes of yoga

14 minutes dancing

Deviled egg: 1 egg/2 halves, 145 calories

37 minutes walking

21 minutes biking

15 minutes running

18 minutes swimming

49 minutes of yoga

25 minutes dancing

Gingerbread cookie: 1 cookie (1.83 ounces), 230 calories

59 minutes walking

33 minutes biking

24 minutes running

28 minutes swimming

78 minutes of yoga

39 minutes dancing

Regular beer: 12 ounces, 153 calories

39 minutes walking

22 minutes biking

16 minutes running

19 minutes swimming

52 minutes of yoga

26 minutes dancing

Martini: 4 ounces, 274 calories

71 minutes walking

39 minutes biking

29 minutes running

33 minutes swimming

93 minutes of yoga

47 minutes dancing

White wine: 4 ounces, 98 calories

25 minutes walking

14 minutes biking

10 minutes running

12 minutes swimming

33 minutes of yoga

17 minutes dancing

Eggnog: 1 cup (with alcohol), 343 calories

88 minutes walking

49 minutes biking

37 minutes running

42 minutes swimming

117 minutes of yoga

58 minutes dancing

Hot buttered rum: 8 ounces, 220 calories

57 minutes walking

31 minutes biking

23 minutes running

27 minutes swimming

75 minutes of yoga

37 minutes dancing

Charles Platkin, Ph.D., is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of www.dietdetective.com.

Diet-saving strategies

Here are a few ideas for being festive without busting out of your favorite holiday outfits.

▪ Eat before. Don’t arrive at a party with your stomach rumbling. Instead, try eating enough healthy food beforehand to fill you up before you arrive. That way you’ll have much more self-control around those tempting party treats.

▪ All or nothing. It’s never too late to stop stuffing your face. Avoid the following thought: “I’ve already ruined my diet, so it doesn’t matter what I eat now.”

▪ Plan to eat healthy. You’re probably thinking about what you’re going to eat anyway, so why not make it work for you instead of against you? Plan what and how much you’re going to eat at the event before you get there. Set limits and you’ll feel better. And stay away from the unhealthy foods. Yes, I mean physically avoid walking or sitting near these foods.

▪ Prepare for food pushers. Learn how to say the following: “Oh, no, thanks. I couldn’t eat another thing.” Or, “I’m watching my diet, and that piece of cake will throw me completely off-track.” Have your answer ready for those diet saboteurs.

▪ Stay balanced. Try consuming fewer calories the few days before and after the holiday, and/or increase your physical activity during this period.

▪ Bring healthy food. Make a few healthy dishes you know you will eat, and volunteer to bring them to the party or dinner.

▪ Don’t stuff your face while socializing. We often eat without thinking — we’re so engaged in conversation and socializing that we don’t realize what or how much we’re eating.

▪ Pick right. Don’t eat just anything: Pick and choose only those high-calorie foods you absolutely love.

▪ Be full. Look for the physical cues signaling that you have eaten enough. Wait 15 to 20 minutes after a meal before requesting seconds or dessert.

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