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Seasonal Calories as Fuel for Discussion

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed on page 25 in the November 30, 2011 issue of
The Mississauga News under the feature: Health & Beauty, Medicine Matters
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

As you start to celebrate the Christmas Season with communal gatherings involving food, I hope to provide some fuel for discussion around the warm fires. Our little part of the planet is brimming with plentiful food choices year round and on demand. A somewhat tricky situation for Homo sapiens who evolved on cycles of hunger and hoarding.

One way to try to reduce the influx of seasonal calories is to have a consciousness of the extras. It is the little barely noticeable gestures that add up. You might be drawn to ordering a healthy sandwich at a quick stop. Not a bad choice, but rewarding yourself with a side of pop, chips or cookie renders the exercise futile, and doubles the calories.

Another example involves recreational hockey or soccer players, both activities I promote and encourage. The average male engaging in these sports will burn about 500 calories and use about 2 liters of water during a one hour session. The ritual beer (or more) will replenish about 150 of those calories. If you head to your local social establishment afterwards, your food choices may negate the effort you just finished.

A six ounce glass of wine is about 150 calories while a rum and coke is about 200 calories. Every chicken wing with sauce adds another 100 calories. But the carrot sticks and celery are oh so healthy? Absolutely, a meager 5-10 calories a piece, unless you dip them into that creamy sauce, and the count jumps to 80 calories. The trick I use is to try to limit my after sport intake to match it to the energy I expended. Otherwise, adding an extra 1000 calories to the outing will translate into about a five pound weight gain during the season.

Clinical studies have shown that you eat less when you use a small plate. Food even tastes better when presented to our senses in a pleasant fashion. Eating off a napkin or from the serving box is a huge mistake. If serving plates are left on the table, men who eat faster will generally eat about 30 percent more and women about 10 percent more. Avoid taking the serving bag of snacks to the TV couch. Repack them into smaller portions and you will at least stand a fair chance. Ordering the large popcorn at the movies may seem economical, but share and withdraw portions into smaller sizes to avoid the calorie excess.

It is not practical to memorize the calorie content of all foods while dining out. Keep a simple score for yourself. Cooked or baked items the size of your thumb are one point, cream and sauces the size of your thumb are one point, raw veggies are zero. Re-load only onto that small plate, and avoid cruise-by grabs. Keep your score to fewer than 10 for the night. Keep track of alcohol derived calories, one point a drink. For every 3600 calories of extra energy you slowly sneak into your body, it will reward you with storing it away as a pound of body fat.

Related resources:

How to stay trim over Christmas by Lucy Atkins, The Telegraph.co.uk. "The booze, the sloth, the endless party nibbles: no wonder the run-up to Christmas is a time for weight gain. Dietary experts, however, say that with a few cunning tricks it is possible to enjoy the party season and still squeeze into your jeans come January 1."

Christmas weight gain 'small' from BBC News.

Christmas and holiday season: Nutrition from Wikipedia. "Yanovski et al. investigated the assertion that the average American gains weight over the season. They found that average weight gain over the Christmas and holiday season is around 0.48 kg (1 lb)."

Christmas Calorie Counter from Walking.About.com. "Use the Christmas Calorie Calculator to total your Christmas goodies and holiday feast calories and see how far you must walk in steps, miles and kilometers to walk it off."

Obesity warning as children eat up to 6,000 calories on Christmas Day by Daily Mail Reporter.

Christmas: How to cut the festive season calories by Mirror.co.uk. How not to overeat ... at a party. How not to overeat ... on Christmas Day. How not to overeat ... at a big meal. How not to overeat ... the snacks. Five festive calorie swaps - Example: Swap a handful of peanuts (180 calories) for a handful of olives (68 calories). Five ways to burn off all that food.

U.S. woman goes Ďall outí with 30,000-calorie Christmas feast from Toronto Star.

300kg woman eats over 30,000 calories for Christmas lunch. YouTube video, 0:47 min. Stuffed! The 30,000-calorie Christmas feast eaten by the world's fattest mum in ONE two-hour sitting by Daily Mail Reporter. "She makes a living from being fat, getting paid to make public appearances and keeping a website where people can pay to watch her eat . . . Already a Guinness world record holder for being the largest woman to ever give birth, Donna hopes to gain 25 stone (350 lb or 158.75 kg) more and officially become the fattest woman in the world."

The Truth About Christmas Food Calories - Episode 75 - MadeFit TV by Jennifer DiDonato, from Daily Motion.com. Video, 9:59 min.

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