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A Guilt-free Thanksgiving?

A Guilt-free Thanksgiving?As millions of Americans prepare to feast, Tufts experts offer advice on how to eat sensibly during the holidays.

Boston [11.27.02] For millions of Americans celebrating Thanksgiving this week, it is a time for turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie...and perhaps a few extra pounds. But how much should nutrition concerns affect how we eat during the holidays? With the right approach, say Tufts experts, we can let go of holiday guilt - to eat, drink and be merry.

"Stop worrying," says Lawrence Lindner, executive editor of the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. According to Lindner, studies show the average weight gain over the holidays to be only one pound.

Regardless, some Americans make the effort to slim down the traditional Thanksgiving fare in effort to guilt-proof the holidays. Magazines and newspapers offer low-fat and fat-free alternative to holiday favorites, in hopes of a less "gainful" holiday season.

"Several publications even have recipes for reduced-fat Christmas cookies," Lindner wrote in The Washington Post. "It seems the Gingerbread Man himself can't escape the dieting dictum."

However, these "healthy" alternatives may not be the most wholesome idea.

AIice Lichtenstein - an expert on nutrition and heart disease at Tufts' Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy - says that fat free holiday food may not keep off the pounds.

The Tufts expert told National Public Radio's All Things Considered that fat-free recipes are not the answer to holiday weight gain woes.

"[People are consuming] fat-free brownies, fat-free ice cream, fat-free cookies, and that really has contributed to the increased caloric intake, the increased carbohydrates and the increase in obesity," the Tufts professor said.

Instead, a relaxed attitude and the willingness to use moderation may be the best holiday eating strategy.

Gail Zyla - a member of the advisory board of Tufts' nationally renowned "Tufts Nutrition Navigator" web guide - says that everyone should allow for a little leeway in their holiday eating.

She told The Washington Post that allowing for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner helps people refrain from overeating throughout the whole holiday season.

"A lot of people go hog wild for the entire month of December," Zyla said. "If people were a little more relaxed about it and a little more forgiving, they wouldn't feel the need to go nuts and then get rigid in January."

The Tufts expert told the Post that Thanksgiving should be a time of feast - not famine.

"People should not beat themselves up over [a holiday] dinner," said Zyla. "That's the last thing anyone needs to feel guilty about. Kick back and enjoy."



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