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Keeping Those Extra Holiday Pounds Off

Keeping Those Extra Holiday Pounds Off

December 3, 2013

  • Lillian Craggs-Dino, RD

Moderator: Welcome to our Online Health Chat "Keeping Those Extra Holiday Pounds Off" with Lillian Craggs-Dino, RD. We are thrilled to have her here today for this chat. Let’s begin with the questions.

magialuna: Good afternoon. I've got some extra pounds, because I'm taking steroids (I was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis). Can I lose some of them and how?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Great question. Yes, a side effect of steroidal medication is some weight gain; two things: always look at portion control and try to incorporate some exercise as tolerated or directed by your physician.

dpgord: Is there a list of common holiday foods that can be eaten in moderation that will not pack on the pounds? Maybe there is a list of foods that should be avoided all together?  I want to be able to feel like I am part of the festivities but making wise choices as well.

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: One challenge with holiday foods is that they are often full fat and full sugar and this increases the calories of the food. For the holiday festivities, pace yourself and don't over-indulge. Practice portion control and perhaps only partake in those special foods that we eat during the holiday. For instance, skip the bread and take only one piece of pumpkin pie. If you are cooking yourself, you can make substitutions such as using egg whites instead of whole eggs and sugar-substitute or fruit juice to replace sugar. Enjoy the holidays and be mindful of how much you are eating.

Mia_Valdez: Are there any guidelines about what the right amount of exercise should be? I'm in my mid-thirties and don't know how often I should be working out for for my age range.

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: According to the American Heart Association, you should have some sort of physical activity every day. Thirty minutes per day of moderate activity is beneficial to overall health. You can even space out this time over the day so you don't have to do all 30 minutes all at once. When first starting an exercise program, consult with your physician and always start out slowly and with light intensity and short duration. Then as you gain stamina, start increasing the duration, type, and intensity of exercise.

AprilB: Do you have any exercise tips for this busy season? I think we don't have "time" to set aside to do our normal exercise routines, but are there any tips you can recommend so we can get some exercise into these busy holidays?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Great question! Try to stick to your routine if you can, but if this is challenging, get some activity in when you can. For example, while the turkey is roasting, put on some holiday music and DANCE! Perhaps after dinner, take a nice stroll around the block with your guests or play some football in the back yard. If you can, wake up 15-30 minutes earlier and get exercise "out of the way" for the day! Remember, any kind of physical activity is beneficial.

jcary: Is coconut palm sugar a healthy alternative to cane sugar? Can it be substituted in baking?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Coconut palm sugar does have healthy nutrients such as vitamins and minerals and can be used as a substitute for baking. The nice thing about coconut palm sugar is that it has a mild molasses flavor and is less sweet than white sugar. It is suggested to use the paste form to mix into batters and use 1 tablespoon less than you would white cane sugar.

Moderator: For those now joining us, we are currently chatting with Lillian Craggs-Dino, RD, who is taking your questions about how to avoid overeating and keeping those holiday pounds off. To ask a question, type in the box below and then click 'Ask'

akswenson: What is a good body scale to purchase?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: A better body scale to use would be the type where you can see the total weight and also the body composition such as muscle mass, fat % and water weight. If you have only a digital scale that gives merely total weight, this does not reflect if you weigh heavier because of muscle mass and muscle mass is more desirable. So I recommend getting a scale that measures body composition and these are available in most home stores or even online.

lulofuen: If you do end up gaining extra holiday pounds, what is the recommended way to lose them? And if you have a long range goal of weight loss, are there foods that should be avoided until you reach your goal weight? It is especially difficult during the holidays to stay on track.

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Great question. If you get a bit off track during the holidays, just get back on track thereafter. Begin by self monitoring your intake so you can identify what foods you may need to decrease. It is always best to increase exercise as you moderately decrease caloric intake. Try to decrease your calories by 250 and increase your exercise to burn 250 calories per day. A deficit of 500 calories per day will lead to a 1-2 pound weight loss per week. 

Diveguy: I've been invited to several holiday parties, is there a strategy to follow so I don't overeat?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Yes definitely! First off, don't go to the first party hungry. Make sure you have breakfast and lunch if the party is at dinnertime; pace yourself throughout each party. Perhaps a good strategy is to carry only a napkin and give yourself a goal by only choosing 1 or 2 appetizers at each party. Also, don't overdo the holiday beverages. Drink sparkling water so that you don't rack up calories from the beverages.

FSUfans: On Christmas day, we usually have tons of food at my house and I was wondering is it better to snack all day on small portions or eat one big meal with my family?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: The trick of not over-eating is to not go to a single meal feeling very hungry. You can enjoy eating snacks and appetizers before the big dinner meal, but be choosey and don't over-indulge. Also, try to choose the lower-calorie snacks like veggies/fruit with dip and portion control. Drink plenty of non-calorie beverages in-between.

Angie70: My company party usually serves alcohol with dinner, are there alcoholic beverages that are lower in calories? For example, wine vs. beer? I don't usually drink much but want to choose lower calorie options.

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Good observation. Typically, if you can "see through the drink" they tend to be lower in calories in comparison. For example, a pina colada would have much more calories than a glass of wine. As far as beer versus wine, a 4 ounce glass of wine has approximately 100-150 calories. Depending on the beer, this can have 130-250 calories. Choose light beer or do wine spritzers to lower the calories even more. Make sure to give yourself a limit to how many drinks you do have.

Garcia_Marta: During the holidays I tend to snack a lot since I'm so busy running around shopping and stressed out. I want to avoid the fatty items at the mall, what can I eat while out shopping?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: The best thing to do is try to stay on schedule with your meals and eat before shopping. But if this is too challenging, be choosey with what you eat. There are many healthier options. Choose foods that are grilled instead of fried.

KimJones0425: My child's school has asked me to bake or buy some treats for the kids for their class holiday party. I'm stumped as to what I can make that is still healthy for the kids and not too sugary. Do you have some suggestions I can use?
Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: A fruit bowl could be very festive! However, for baking, use substitutions such as fruit juice instead of sugar, fat free half n half instead of cream. Add dried fruit to holiday cookies for sweetness and then you can decrease the amount of sugar you add. A nice website to give healthy baking alternatives is at

GoHeat13: What are some healthy food options or recipes I can serve my guests at my Christmas party?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: For main proteins, turkey, ham, poultry, seafood tend to be lower in fat and calories depending on how you cook them...bake, broil, grill, but don't fry. Also, serve lots of side dishes that include veggies. Roasted asparagus with slivered almonds, baked acorn squash, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta and shallots, raw veggie and fruit platters. Yummy!

Geminigirl: This year I'm cooking the Christmas Eve dinner for my family which includes roast pork and other Latin items, any way to make them lighter in fat and calories?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Pork loin tends to be low in fat and calories and makes for a healthy protein; as for cooking, use baking, roasting or even stewing so you don't need to add extra fat. Make use of herbs and spices for flavors so you don't need to fry anything. Avoid using lard or butter. Use healthier olive oils, but measure out how much you use. Have plenty of veggies as side dishes. Rice and beans are very healthy, but decrease the amount of fat you use...use broth to cook your rice. And remember, portion control of how much you eat is key.

Ivyleaguealum: Is there a website or tool I can use to calculate calories and fat content for typical foods we eat around the holidays? I want to know what food choices I should make before arriving to holiday parties.
Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: or are useful online tools you can use to identify calories, fat, protein, carb etc. These are user-friendly and can help with your choices.

Pinkgal01: I'm a huge fan of sweets and it's hard to pass up all the great options during Christmas like cookies, pies, etc. Can I still eat some of these without gaining a bunch of pounds? What portion sizes should I have if I want dessert at a party?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Enjoy the holiday treats in moderation. If there are two pies that you want, just take half a serving of each (less than 1/3 of a slice). It may seem like a small piece, but this way you can enjoy both flavors without the guilt. Then try to go for a nice walk after dinner! As for cookies, limit yourself to 2-3 of your favorites.

Moderator: We are getting ready to close for today. A large number of questions were received and we apologize if we did not get to your question. We will try to answer as many questions as possible in these last few minutes. If you have additional questions, please go to to chat online with a health educator.

Momof4: I tend to eat when feeling stressed out, is there something I can do to avoid that? Are there any healthier methods of dealing with stress?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Exercise or meditation are great ways to de-stress. If you know you eat when you are stressed, make an extra effort to stay out of the kitchen during these times.

Shopgirl: How important is eating breakfast when trying to lose weight? I feel like eating pastries and sugary items at the office during Christmas isn't very healthy? What should I be eating?

Lillian_Craggs-Dino,_RD: Eating breakfast has been shown to help people lose weight and keep the weight off. Make sure you include a lean protein with your breakfast to help keep the hunger away. As far as the holiday pastries at the office, let yourself have one and that is it. Portion control and being choosey during this time will get you through.

Moderator: I'm sorry to say that our time with Lillian Craggs-Dino, RD is now over. Thank you again, Lillian for taking the time to answer our questions today about how to avoid overeating and keeping those holiday pounds off. To make an appointment with Lillian Craggs-Dino, or any other specialist at Cleveland Clinic Florida, please call 877.463.2010. You can also visit us online at vanity

Moderator: If you would like to view the entire transcript of this chat after the event, it will be available on the Cleveland Clinic Florida website.