By Saba Zahid, RD
Shore Patient Experience Manager, Unidine Corporation
For many of us, the holiday season is about three main things: friends, family and FOOD. Thanksgiving kicks the season off with an all-day feast, which often leads way to cookie exchanges, multiple holiday parties and of course, the stress of holiday shopping. All of these factors can cause unhealthy holiday eating habits that can spiral out of control and lead to weight gain.
The average-weight person typically gains one pound over the holidays. Those who are overweight or obese gain an average of five pounds. While those numbers might not seem like a lot, we tend to only lose about half of that weight after the holidays are over, resulting in a gradual, annual weight gain that down the road can lead to serious health problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Here are some helpful tips to enjoy the festivities and food, but keep those extra pounds at bay.
- Focus on conversation and enjoying time with family and friends, rather than the food.
- Choose broth-based soups instead of cream-based for fewer calories and fat. Or, to reduce the amount of calories, skip the soup altogether or opt for a salad, like this Kale & Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberry Tahini Dressing.
- Be mindful while eating. Avoid grazing at the appetizer table and put food on a plate so you know how much you are eating. Use small plates to keep yourself in check and limit portions.
- Fill up on healthier options, such as veggies and fruits, first and then allow yourself smaller portions of some of the special holiday items, such as bread dressing or sweet potato casserole.
- Be mindful while enjoying alcoholic beverages. Limit high-calorie specialty holiday drinks such as eggnog, white Russians, and Christmas ale. Make your cocktail last by sipping slower and drinking water in between.
- For your main course, choose leaner proteins like chicken or turkey without the skin instead of fattier meats like ham and beef. Keep your protein portions to about the size of your palm. Fill the rest of your plate with plenty of in-season veggies to your plate, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes.
- When indulging in desserts, remember to keep portions small. Offer lower-calorie options such as fruit with low-fat whipped cream.
- If you’re preparing food for a large crowd, you are likely to have leftovers that can tempt you for a whole week. Consider making goodie bags for guests to take home with them. You can also create perfectly portioned meals in freezer-safe containers and freeze your holiday meal to enjoy at a later time.
- Make time for exercise. You may not be able to stick to your regular exercise schedule with all of the holiday gatherings but even 20 minutes of exercise most days of the week can go a long way in helping burn those extra holiday calories and maintaining your weight.
The key to enjoying the holidays healthfully is to let yourself enjoy! By giving yourself permission to indulge in moderation, you can still enjoy the holiday foods without having to go shopping for a new pair of jeans.