9 tips for avoiding holiday weight gain

December 14, 2013 Sarah Lawson, RD

Amongst the cheer and merriment, often come unwanted extra pounds that sneak their way around our waistlines. The span between Thanksgiving and New Years are filled with traditions and an extra average weight gain of 1-2 pounds. It may not sound like much, but consider over the course of a decade that can lead to an extra 10-20 pounds.  That extra luggage then leads to another tradition - the New Year’s resolution to lose weight!

Stop the insanity and start eating smart. Simple lifestyle changes will put an end to the cycle of overindulging, weight gain, and feeling miserable once the season is over. It is said the best offense is a good defense. By practicing these time-honored tips, you’ll likely feel fulfillment without getting overfilled.

1. Plan ahead.

If you know the party you are headed to will lack healthy options (hello, cookie exchange!) have a low-calorie, high protein snack prior to attending a party. This will keep your appetite in check and you will be less likely to arrive ravenous and overeat.  Hummus with vegetables, whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese, a piece of fruit with natural peanut butter, or Greek Yogurt with high fiber cereal are a few great choices to tide you over. Pair foods that are high in protein and rich in fiber to keep you satiated longer. At the party, keep to light appetizers.

2. Host a healthy holiday.

Control the nutritional content of the meal by throwing the party yourself. Plan the dinner menu with lean meats and seafood, fresh vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, beans, and low-fat dairy. Use the opportunity to try healthy recipes from sites such as www.cooklinglight.com and www.eatingright.com (Ed. Note – check out our healthy recipe collection here or on Pinterest.) In lieu of a potluck, have party guests bring non-perishable foods to donate to the food bank.

3. Lighten up your menu.

Revamp your recipes by using lower calorie, lower fat ingredients. Swapping Greek yogurt, low-sodium chicken broth, and low-fat milk in place of butter and heavy cream will shave fat and calories without anyone tasting the difference. You can also amp up the flavor factor by utilizing calorie-free fresh herbs and spices (rosemary, chives, sage, and thyme are wonderful this time of year), citrus juice and zest, and gourmet vinegars such as Balsamic, Champagne, or Apple Cider.

Plate Method - image via http://chocolate-broccoli.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/ss_PlateSlide7.jpg4. Practice the “Plate Method”.

Scan the buffet before you load up and create half your plate with fruits and low-starch vegetables. Eating more low-calorie, high fiber foods will keep you satisfied without overeating. Add simply steamed, roasted, or grilled vegetables in place of calorie-laden casseroles. Fill the rest of your dish with 4-5 oz. of lean protein like turkey breast and a carbohydrate serving of your choice (mashed potatoes, stuffing, or sweet potatoes).

5. Avoid the ordinary.

Red and green colored M&Ms are just the same M&Ms available at all times throughout the year. The same goes for all the other “holiday versions” of ordinary snacks and treats. Mindless consumption of empty calories leads to blowing your daily caloric budget, causing weight gain. Keep tempting treats out of sight and out of mind. Instead, chose wisely. Indulge in something complete unique and special instead of everyday average treats.

6. Select your splurge meal.

Endless invites to parties and get-togethers are easy excuses to throw your best intentions out the window. To incorporate your favorite holiday foods, pick one meal you know you are going to invest in. Enjoy the dish without the guilt, but get back on track the very next meal. Just don’t make it a habit to continue to indulge the whole season.

7. Make time to move. 

Simple ways to incorporate more movement can be as easy as a 30 minute power walk around the neighborhood (take in the Christmas light display!) or an exercise video in your living room. Being diligent with exercise can help keep your focus to eat right and splurge less. Physical activity is also important for reducing stress this busy and hectic time of year!

8. Be cautious of your cup.

Image via http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/santa-hat-glass-decoration#A ½ cup of Eggnog is 190 Calories. Add a shot of bourbon and you have the caloric equivalent of a cup of cereal, 1 cup of 2% milk, and a banana (that’s breakfast!). Alcohol consumption further lowers your inhibitions and increases your hunger, likely causing you to indulge in high-calorie, high-fat foods.

Be wise with your drinks. Stick to simple drinks like champagne, wine, beer, or hard alcohol with a low-calorie mixer such as a gin and tonic. Always drink responsibly and always have a glass of water between beverages. You’ll thank me in the morning!

9. Remember the reason for the season.

Although food is part of all our traditions, keep the emphasis on what matters most – your family and friends. This is the season to celebrate and enjoy one another. No need to always make meals the main event. Think outside the box for parties – host an ornament exchange or craft party, go ice-skating, take a stroll through a neighborhood with holiday lights, see a holiday themed play or concert, or participate in a holiday 5k.

Be happy, be healthy, and have a Happy Holiday!


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