Celebrate the New Year
by exercising your
body, mind & spirit

Submitted by:

Latasha Sanders, Program Coordinator
Faith & Health Initiative

Chances are, at some time in your life you've made a New Year's Resolution - and then broke it. this year, stop the cycle of resolving to make change, but not following through. Healthy eating shouldn't take a break during the holidays. In fact, paying attention to what you eat and balancing your diet with regular physical activity will likely help you enjoy your winter holidays even more.

The common belief that weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day averages between 5 and 10 pounds is not so, according to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  While it is true that 10 percent of those studied did gain over five pounds during this time period, the majority only gained a little over one pound.

Still, the pounds gained during the holidays are believed to stick with most individuals for life.  Previous studies have indicated that the average American adult gains up to 1.4 pounds every year.  If this is true for you, you can expect to be 14 pounds heavier in 10 years.

If you are already overweight, according to the NIH study, you are more likely to fall in the 10 percent of those who gain five or more pounds during the holidays.  In such cases, you can expect to gain at least 50 pounds in the next 10 years - increasing your risks for developing diabetes and one or more types of cardiovascular disease.

The obesity epidemic has raised public awareness in the past year.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently determined that 31 percent of adults (nearly 59 million people) are clinically obese as indicated with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater.  This is compared to 23 percent in 1994.

There are several things you can do to combat holiday weight gain:

  • When at a holiday party, eat from the veggie tray.  Don't use the dip.
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat and reduce your portion size to 3 ounces or less.
  • Reduce your intake of beverages that are high in sugar, like soda.
  • Split your dessert with a loved one.  You don't need to try one of everything.
  • Don't fill up.  Consider that it takes up to 20 minutes to feel full.
  • Balance your eating with physical activity.  The most recent recommendations are to increase activity to one hour, daily.
    • Take a 20-minute walk (around the block) at least once per day.
    • Park further away when you go to the store.
    • Find ways around the house (like cleaning) to keep moving.

Tips for Reducing the Sugar & Fat in Your Baking

We all know that we should try to cut back the amount of fat in our diets and no one wants to give up the treats they love. High fat and high sugar foods, found at the tip of the Food Guide Pyramid, should be eaten sparingly. Thanks to recent baking innovations, you can now have your cake (in moderation) and eat it too!

In baking, fat adds moisture, flavor and tender texture to cookies, cakes, quick breads, and muffins. Fruit purées, such as prune or banana, and nonfat dairy products like yogurt or sour cream, provide some of the fat-like characteristics without the addition of fat.

Other ways to trim the fat in your recipes include using egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs, and using graham cracker or chocolate cookie crumb crusts in recipes calling for higher fat pastry dough crusts.

Even though reducing fat is important, it may not always be possible or even desirable to replace all the fat with a nonfat substitute. While you can cut most of the fat in baked goods by substituting fruit purées or nonfat dairy products for the butter, margarine, or oil, taste is the ultimate test.

Use caution when making substitutions. All fruit purées are not equal. Flavors vary depending on which fruit purée you choose. For example, prune purée provides a rich flavor and moist, tender texture, and is best used in recipes with chocolate, cinnamon and orange.

When you modify a recipe using fruit purées, substitute 1/2 as much of the chosen substitute (the purée) for fat. For example, use 1/2 cup of puréed prunes in place of one cup of butter. You may add a tablespoon or two of the fat back into the recipe to achieve the best flavor and results. Here are some general guidelines for reducing the fat in your recipes:

  • Use 2 egg whites or 1/4-cup egg substitute for each whole egg called for in your recipe.
  • When baking, use fruit purées, applesauce, or plain non-fat yogurt instead of oil (I like to use nonfat vanilla yogurt for the added sweetness).
  • Use evaporated skim milk when recipes call for evaporated or canned milk.
  • Use fat-free cream cheese or blended fat-free cottage cheese instead of regular cream cheese.
  • If a recipe must have the fat to work, try using half the fat.
  • Experiment with fat-free products as substitutes for the regular type products in your recipes. Be careful, though, some recipes are not designed to be totally fat-free.
  • Decrease the amount of fat used in baked goods by 1/3 to 1/2 and increases fluids called for to reach desired consistency.

S.O.S. (Save On Sugar)

Sugars are only one source of food energy and, like other ingredients in food, eating added sugars in moderation is part of a healthy diet. For some people, especially those with diabetes, moderation means controlling sugar they add to foods. Note: If you have diabetes, which is not tightly controlled, do not eat sugary foods until your blood glucose readings are in the normal range and maintained.

Besides the taste, sugar adds to the aroma, texture, color and body of a variety of foods. Sugar is the “food” for yeast that helps bread to rise. In baked foods, it contributes to the light brown color and crisp texture. In many baked foods and other products, sugar contributes to a food’s bulk and texture.

Before you change the sugar in a recipe you’re preparing, think about its function and whether reducing or eliminating sugars will give the cooking result you want. Then, if you need to cut calories or carbohydrates, try using sugar in moderation in you are holiday baking. Using the chart below as a general guide, experiment and bake those wonderful family recipes a little “lighter” this year.

General Guidelines for Reducing Sugar

  • Decrease the amount of sugar called for in traditional recipes by at least 1/4 to 1/3. Substitute fruit juices, nectars or puréed fruits.
  • Use fruits canned in water or natural fruit juice.
  • If needed, use non-caloric sweeteners suitable for baking to increase the sweetness of a recipe without added calories. Note: Most baked desserts require at least 3/4-teaspoon sugar per serving to achieve a desirable flavor.

Baking with Sugar

  • For cakes and cake-like cookies (cookies made with juice, milk, water): For each cup of flour use 1/2 cup of sugar
  • For muffins and quick breads: For each cup of flour use 1 Tbsp (Tablespoon) sugar
  • For yeast breads: For each cup of flour use 1 tsp (teaspoon) of sugar.

Further “sweeten” your recipes with extracts, such as vanilla, almond or peppermint, and so-called sweet spices, such as cinnamon or allspice. This will enhance the sweetness of foods. Also, you can warm these spicy foods and they’ll taste sweeter! Other spices that give the perception of sweetness include cardamom, coriander, ginger, mace and nutmeg.

Dried and fresh fruits, along with small amounts of toasted nuts, will add an extra dimension to your sugar-reduced baked goods. Ever notice how many recipes we publish with dried fruits in the ingredient list?

Here are a couple of Fruit Purées for you to try in your recipes.


1-1/3 cups dried, pitted prunes

6 Tbsp hot water

1 tsp vanilla extract

Makes 1-cup purée, with 344 Cal; 1/2 g Fat.


1 cup dried peaches

6 Tbsp hot water

1 tsp vanilla extract

Makes 3/4 Cup purée with 314 Cal; 9 g Fat.

Creamy rice pudding flavored with cinnamon and vanilla
is a favorite Mexican dessert.  Serve it warm or chilled; it's delicious either way.

3-1/2 cups nonfat milk
1/2 cup short- or medium-grain rice
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
About 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup golden or dark raisins
1 Tbsp honey

     In a 1-1/2 to 2-quart pan (preferably nonstick), combine 3 cups of the milk, rice and salt. Bring just to a very gentle boil over medium heat, stirring. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to 2-3/4 cups, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

     In a bowl, beat eggs, sugar, remaining 1/2-cup milk, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon until blended.  Stir in raisins.

     Stir egg mixture into rice mixture.  Bring just to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 5 minutes.   Stir in honey.  Serve warm or chilled.  Sprinkle with additional cinnamon just before serving.  Makes 6 Servings.

Per Serving: 213 Cal; 3 g Total Fat (1 g Sat Fat); 37g Carb; 109 mg Cholesterol; 197 mg Sodium; 9 g Protein. Exchanges: 2 Starch; 1/2 Fat.

Recipe from the Low Fat Mexican Cookbook ~ Recipes For Healthy Eating,
©1996 by Sunset Publishing Corporation.