Okay, so why am I already seeing Christmas stuff in the stores? The answer is because we love, love the holidays and all the celebrating that it brings. For many people the holidays are a time for re-uniting with friends and family, enjoying once- a-year festivities and, unfortunately, gaining weight. On average, Americans gain 2-4 pounds over the holiday season. And while this doesn’t seem like much, most do not take that weight off, and it begins to accumulate. After 5 years of gaining 4 pounds each year… well you see how that goes. Luckily, weight gain can be avoided by planning how, what and when you eat as well as practicing mindful techniques.
Holiday Eating Tips
1. Be mindful of portion sizes. A typical Thanksgiving meal-full with turkey, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes is actually fairly healthy. However, when you have large portions of the food and/or multiple servings of the food the calories add up very quickly. The average calorie count for a typical size turkey-day meal can range from 1200-3000 calories!! For most of us that is 1-2 days worth of calories and weight gain will certainly follow. Fix: Use smaller plates at home-use small utensils too. When you are out at parties, make sure you take the smallest plate possible—this will cut down on the amounts.
2. Choose the nutrient dense vs. energy dense foods first-then grab the holiday favorite. There are countless decedent goodies at the holidays and many you only see once a year so they are hard to resist. And, really you shouldn’t give all of them up-however, you need to make some choices. Fix: Upon entering the holiday get-together with the large buffet table filled with high fat, high calorie foods, look over all the choices and decide on maybe 2-3 that you must have. Then make your way to the fruits and vegetables and fill your small plate with them. If you a person who tends to hang out at the food table—change that. Take your small plate of fruits and vegetables away from the area. When you are finished, go back and retrieve your 2-3 goodies that high in fat and calories. Savor them and if still hungry-hit the fruits and vegetables again.
3. Make substitutions for saturated fats and high sugar content. Many of your favorite holiday recipes contain ingredients that can be changed out for lower fat, sugar and calorie ingredients. Of course, some recipes (like Aunt Elda’s Caramel Crème Pie) just cannot and should not be messed with. In those cases, just take smaller portions. However, many times no one will even notice the change. Fix: Fruit purees for oils in muffins, cakes or brownies. Fat free yogurt, milk, sour cream or cream cheese for whole fat dairy foods. Also, consider the foods you will offer—white skinless turkey breast is much lower in calories than dark turkey with skin.
4. Careful of the alcohol. For many people, the holidays mean celebrating with alcohol, and while there are choices for lower-calorie drinks, having more than 2 drinks can sabotage anyone’s diet. Fix: Don’t drink with the meal-save intake for the toasting and socializing part of the day/night. Also, drink a glass of water (or 2) between drinks. Finally, seek out low calorie options—egg nog is very high in fat, sugar and calories. Choose white wine, a Bloody Mary, or “water down” your drink—white wine with a no-calorie seltzer is a good choice.
5. Get moving. What is your routine after eating a large holiday meal? Do you lay down to “digest”? Do you go to sleep? Fix: Change up that routine for a new healthy one. After you are done with that wonderful meal, go outside and take a walk. Put on some music and dance. Get out the old Twister game and play. Just move after those meals. You will feel better and it will help fend off unwanted weight gain.
The holidays are a magical time for all and we should keep our traditions intact and party hearty. We can do this and still stay healthy. Just take a little time to think about what you will eat, when you will eat, how much you will eat and how will you build exercise into your holiday celebrations, and you can stay healthy throughout the season.
I have included a link to a Healthy Holiday Eating Guide. It can be found HERE.
By: Deb Ahola MS, RDN, CDN