Holiday Eating: How To Avoid Gaining Weight During The Holidays

Friday, December 15, 2006 - 9:13am

By Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN

The holidays are synonymous with an abundance of rich foods and overindulgence. During this time, most health-conscious people strive to maintain their weight because dieting is practically impossible. In fact, the average American typically gains between one and five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Keep a food journal over the holidays

Write down what you eat to monitor your caloric intake. Research shows that people who keep a food diary consume 15% less food than those who don’t!

Don’t skip meals during the holidays to "save" calories

Parties and gatherings occur throughout the holiday season. Don’t skip meals in an attempt to "save" calories for later. Your body cannot use all of that food for energy at once, even if you are staying within your daily caloric needs. Much will be stored as fat and skipping meals slows down your metabolism. Stick to your normal (healthy) eating routine to keep your hunger in control. Nosh on a protein-packed snack, such as low-fat yogurt or reduced-fat cheese, to blunt your hunger before a gathering.

Practice portion control

If you indulge, be choosy and eat a small amount of what really want so that you are satisfied and less likely to overindulge. Think "kid-sized portions," and use appetizer plates. Fill three-quarters of your plate with healthy items, like veggies and whole grains.

Be mindful of overeating during the holidays and use moderation to avoid weight gain

Overeating one night doesn’t give you a license to blow the day, or the week! Enjoy only the foods that you love, those that are worth the calories.Using moderation really does work. Here are some strategies:

  • Don’t sit near buffet tables, candy dishes and cookie-laden platters.
  • Excuse yourself from the dinner table when you’ve finished eating.
  • Keep your mouth busy by talking with friends and family.
  • Chew gum or suck on a sugarless breath mint to prevent picking.
  • Enjoy club soda with a twist before/instead of a cocktail to limit alcohol consumption.

Keep active and exercise over the holidays

Another cause of weight gain during the holiday season is less activity. Time is spent doing holiday errands, which makes us tired and less motivated. However, the best thing you can do is to stick to your regular exercise schedule! Working out keeps your weight down, increases your energy and reduces your stress. Walk a few extra laps around the mall or add 20 minutes to your treadmill time.

Make healthy food choices even during the holidays

Here are some healthy food preparation tips:

  1. For dessert, try baking apples with the skin to get a potent nutrition boost. Add spices for flavor.
  2. Make cranberries from scratch using puréed orange. Replace some of the sugar with artificial sweetener.
  3. Naturally low in calories, string beans are a good source of vitamin K, vitamin C and vitmain A. Prepare beans by lightly tossing with olive oil and lemon.
  4. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes are fiber and potassium-rich. To make casseroles or desserts, bake them with minimal sugar, substituting liquid oil for solid fat.
  5. Candied yams are already high in sugar so bake them using only a bit of brown sugar.
  6. Mash white potatoes with low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth.
  7. Prepare dips with fat-free sour cream or yogurt.
  8. Use a gravy separator to skim the fat when making gravy.
  9. Serve one rich, decadent dessert to guests. Offer a few healthier options, such as chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Holiday treats: treat yourself and not use food as a comfort

Scheduling difficulties, time restraints and last minute errands can make this season very stressful. As a result, it’s important to take time for yourself. Schedule a massage, buy a new book or treat yourself to a yoga class. Find a non-food coping mechanism that will curb your stress. This is the easiest time of the year to use food for comfort. Learn other methods for dealing with stress during this hectic time!

Remember, the holidays are days, not weeks or months. After each holiday, resume your normal healthy eating habits.

For further tips on eating sensibly during the holidays to avoid weight gain see the following article from TheDietChannel: 10 High Calorie Holiday Foods to Watch Out For, 10 Tips for Preventing Holiday Weight Gain10 Ways to Prevent Thanksgiving Weight Gain, Holiday Parties: How to control eating? and Savvy Eating at Holiday Parties.