Health & Wellness

Diet SOS: Keep pounds off during the holidays

Viewer question: I am invited to a co-worker’s Christmas dinner and he follows a gluten-free diet.  I have no idea what to bring.  Can you suggest a gluten-free side dish and dessert? Diana from New Rochelle, N.Y.

Joy’s answer: People who follow a gluten-free diet have to avoid wheat, rye and barley completely. Some foods that contain these ingredients are obvious (like cookies and cakes made with wheat flour), but many packaged foods that you might assume to be gluten-free contain additives that are derived from wheat, rye or barley — so you have to be really careful of what you use in recipes. 

If you live near a Whole Foods or major health food store, you may be able to buy specially formulated gluten-free versions of baked goods and other products. If that’s not an option, or you’d rather bring something homemade, here are some simple ideas for side dishes and desserts that can be made with everyday ingredients and are completely gluten-free:

Gluten-free side dishes

  • Mashed sweet potatoes,roasted or mashed with just a small amount of brown sugar or maple syrup. Sweet potatoes are incredibly nutrient-dense; they deliver lots of fiber, beta-carotene, B vitamins and potassium.
  • Sautéed green beans,sautéed in a drop of olive oil with shallots and garlic — and slivered almonds. Green beans are super-low in calories, and the garlic and shallots give them tons of flavor.
  • Wild rice pilaf with dried fruits,such as apricots, cranberries and/or golden raisins, and toasted nuts, such as walnuts, pecans or slivered almonds. Wild rice is a whole grain, and nuts provide heart-healthy fats.

Gluten-free desserts

  • Fresh fruit salad with homemade whipped cream.
  • Gluten-free chocolate cake. (Check gluten-free Web sites for a variety of recipes.)

Viewer question: It’s family tradition to stuff our kids’ stockings with candy. Any healthier (yet fun) candy options? — Lisa

Joy’s answer: GREAT question! These stocking stuffers all make the cut. Some are candy, and others are fun snacks that kids also will love:

Sweet stocking stuffers

  • Lollipops
  • Tootsie Roll Pops
  • Candy canes
  • Dark chocolate Hershey Kisses and Dove miniatures
  • 100 percent fruit chews/fruit leathers
  • 100-calorie packs
  • Trail mix or Craisins

Fun non-candy ideas

  • Sugarless gum
  • Tattoos
  • Nail polish
  • Stick-on nails
  • Fun erasers
  • Lip gloss
  • Baseball cards
  • Balls
  • Jacks

And, with all this candy coming their way, don’t forget to stuff the kids’ stockings with a new toothbrush and flavored dental floss too.

Viewer question: I plan to eat EVERYTHING at Christmas dinner tomorrow. What’s the best strategy for the “day after” to undo some of the damage? Leezill from Mississippi

Joy’s answer: First off, try to pace yourself and eat slowly when you’re feasting on Christmas dinner. New research published by a team of Greek scientists shows that when you eat more slowly, you give your stomach time to release higher levels of hormones that signal to your brain that you’re filling up — which in turn causes you to eat less!

Then, follow my “post-Christmas plan”:

1. Exercise first thing in the morning. Starting your day with a vigorous cardio workout immediately puts you in the right mindset to make healthy food choices throughout the rest of the day — which prevents you from letting one day of splurging turn into a week of splurging! Plus, the exercise will burn off some of the extra calories you took in the day before.

2. Drink plenty of water.  Drinking lots of H20 will help you “undo” the bloat by flushing out all the extra salt you consumed in your big holiday meal and aiding in digestion. It’ll also keep you feeling full, so you won’t be tempted to graze throughout the day.

3. Cut back on starches. Minimize your intake of starches like bread, pasta and rice the day after. Instead, enjoy starch-free meals like a big egg white omelet with vegetables, a large tossed salad topped with grilled chicken, a “bunless” turkey burger served on a bed of greens, or grilled chicken/fish/shrimp with a side of steamed vegetables.

4. Minimize snacking. After your big day of holiday splurges, you can definitely afford to cut back on the snacking for a day or two. Stick to three main meals and only one snack, and make it a healthy, filling choice (like a piece of fruit with a nonfat yogurt) instead of empty calories.

For more information on losing weight and healthy eating, check out Joy’s new book, “Your Inner Skinny,” and visit her Web site at .

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