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November 8, 2011 > It's Time for a Holiday Dessert Makeover

It's Time for a Holiday Dessert Makeover

Women's Center Class Focuses on Transforming High-Calorie Treats

Leftover Halloween candy. Extra treats around the office. A few brownies from a batch you're baking for a party... It's hard to avoid treats when they're everywhere. Then Thanksgiving comes around, and according to statistics, it's downhill until it's time for New Year's resolutions.

The point is: holiday desserts add up. A study cited by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asserts that most annual weight gain - an average of 0.8 lb - occurs during the six-week interval between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. The worst part is that people generally don't lose this weight in the coming year, which adds up to almost a pound of weight gain annually. This means five years can equal five extra pounds.

You don't have to sacrifice taste

So, is the only solution to give up the holiday desserts that you enjoy sharing with loved ones? Definitely not, according to Maggie Villagomez, R.D., a Registered Dietitian at Washington Hospital.

On Thursday, Nov. 17, Villagomez will be teaching a "Holiday Dessert Makeover" class at the Washington Women's Center to help transform traditional desserts into tasty treats that won't sabotage waistlines. Her goal, she says, is to focus on simple ways to make items healthier without sacrificing taste.

"The purpose of this class is to teach people that it is possible to eat the foods you love at the holidays, but made in healthier ways that slash the calories, fat, and salt without limiting taste," she explains.

Villagomez says that for most people there's an inextricable link between food and enjoying the holidays, which can be a challenge for those of us trying to keep an eye on our weight.

"The holidays are about family and memories, and most people's memories of the holidays center around food, particularly desserts," she says. "Desserts are also many times easier to make than entrees or savory dishes, so they are often enjoyed throughout the holiday season, like at church functions or work parties and potlucks leading up to those special days."

The downside?

"The pounds can pack on fairly quickly if you're participating in all these different food-centered activities," she says.

This is why it's important to incorporate healthy alternatives that can help you take in fewer calories and less fat while still enjoying the special holiday foods you love, according to Villagomez. During her class on the 17th, she will show participants how to do this.

Tasting is believing

But Villagomez doesn't expect people to take her word for it.

"We plan on doing an interactive class where participants can make jarred low-fat cookie mixes that they can take home and give as a gift, and we also plan on making 'pies in a jar,' which are individual serving sizes of the holiday pies you love, but in portion-controlled servings," she says. "We will be sampling many other healthy but delicious holiday desserts, such as a double chocolate muffins, cherry chocolate chip cookies, and a cranberry apple cobbler, among other goodies."

Villagomez says it's all about modifying your favorite foods, not cutting them out of your diet completely. She also points out that deprivation often leads to splurges.

"Modifying your recipes to make them healthier allows for the enjoyment of them without the weight gain - or too much weight gain," she says. "When people feel deprived of their favorite foods, especially during the holidays, they eventually break and go crazy, eating three slices of pie instead of one, for example. But allowing yourself the things you like in a healthier version and in moderation helps keep your cravings in check and your weight stable."

Make over your holiday desserts

The "Holiday Dessert Makeover" class, part of the Washington Women's Center's Lunch and Learn program, will be held from 12 Noon to 1 p.m. at the Washington Women's Center conference room, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue, Suite 150, in Fremont.

To register, call Health Connection at (800) 963-7070. The fee for this class is $5, and class size is limited to 20 participants.

Maggie's Top Three Holiday Tips to Avoid Weight Gain

1. Eat only the foods you love (and can get) at this time of year - don't waste calories on foods you can get anytime of year (i.e., chips, chocolate chip cookies, etc).
2. Never go to a party hungry; you're more likely to overeat. Eat a sensible meal or snack before the function.
3. Exercise! Fit in 30 to 60 minutes of activity daily, as appropriate.

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