The doctor is in, ladies and gents! We got the chance to sit down with fitness and health expert Dr. Raj for the ultimate holiday health guide. From the worst possible indulgence to make at parties to why Bon Jovi is essential to a good workout playlist, we’ve got the Q&A you won’t want to miss this holiday season! (Also, isn’t he a cutie? SWOON.)
Overall, what do you find to be the cause for overindulgence during the holiday season?
It’s the concept of “having to eat” during the holidays. In the U.S., Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holidays are within 5-6 weeks of each other, so I think people cram in as much food as possible over a period of two months. New Year’s Eve and having a New Year’s Resolution plays into this as well. People will splurge and eat as much as possible up until NYE, and then plan on dropping the weight in the New Year. Even clothing leads to overindulgence- it’s easier to cover up weight gain in areas where it gets colder, and you have to layer on clothes.
We’re not going to hold back on this one: what is the absolute worst thing to overindulge in at holiday parties?
Sugars and sweets! Wasted calories and simple carbs really just go to fat storage. The appetizers and comfort foods you find at holiday parties are packed with saturated fat. A Swedish meatball can be at least 400 calories of butter, heavy cream, and more! Imagine having 2-3 of these, you have hit your calorie count for the day. Eggnog is also one of my top items NOT to have during the holidays. One cup can have up to 350 calories.
Are there any foods that are more dangerous to consume than they appear in terms of calorie content?
I think a lot of people don’t think about the meats they are eating. For example, pot roast contains a ton of saturated fat; one 3-ounce serving can have around 300 calories and 20 grams of total fat! Prime rib also comes from the fattest part of the cow; it can have up to 750 calories. And for both of these meats, add on mashed potatoes and gravy and that is an insane amount of calories and fat.
How about drinks, especially alcoholic ones?
During the holidays, people drink more than other times in the year. You are around family and friends at events where drinks like eggnog (already on my don’t-drink list) are in abundance. Wine is extremely high in sugar, so as an overall rule of thumb, try to keep your alcohol consumption in moderation- try not to drink more than you normally would. This will also help with avoiding weight gain in the long run. If you still want to have a spirit, skip the cinnamon martini and stick to vodka on the rocks with a twist of lemon- there are fewer calories in it.
What are some of the best holiday dishes to make for everyone that fill you up but don’t leave you sluggish after?
Try serving reduced-fat cheeses, fresh fruits, and nuts for appetizers (my favorites are flavored almonds) over thick fatty dips and meatball dishes. You can make a holiday-themed veggie platter too, which is festive and fun! For meats, choose white meat that is lower in fat, and be careful about how much gravy you use. The same goes for the amount of potatoes you eat. Dessert can be tough- instead of serving cheesecake (which can be up to 700-1000 calories a slice), try pumpkin pie, which is lower in fat and calories. Also, you can serve strawberries which are healthy, and dip them in low-fat chocolate.
More tips from Dr. Raj, including what’s on his ultimate workout playlist, up next!