Yay! The holidays are here! Now we can enjoy our favorite seasonal dishes and desserts that we have been looking forward to all year. If you’re like me, feasting on delightful delicacies is a mainstay of any celebration, and it seems the bigger the celebration, the greater the feast. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s all occurring within a span of just 41 days, many of us end up at party after party, celebrating the holiday season and packing on the pounds. Reports claim that the average person gains 5-10 pounds during the holiday season. Yikes! It is much more difficult to lose weight than to gain, so if you put on even a pound or two on during the holidays, it is likely you will not lose it.
How can we you enjoy the holidays without gaining weight?
Making a plan now can help you enjoy the season without expanding your waistline. Here are 10 tips to keep yourself from becoming another holiday weight gain statistic.
- Eat regular meals and snacks during the holidays
You may be tempted to “save up” before you head out to a holiday party so you can eat more when you’re there. While this approach seems logical, skipping meals before or after a party will not do you any favors. It slows down your metabolism, and if you arrive at a party famished, you will likely make poor choices on what and how much to eat.
- Get out of the kitchen to avoid overeating
Why torture yourself? Once you have filled your plate, move to another room and engage in conversation or another activity that will take your mind off of food. If you have to be in the kitchen for cleanup, chew a piece of gum to keep you from nibbling on leftovers. You can easily add an extra 200-300 calories with just a few nibbles!
- Make healthy contributions to the holiday menu
Not everything at a holiday meal has to be dripping with butter, cheese, or chocolate to be appealing. Many will welcome a fresh vegetable dish or a mixed green salad. Or, take a more traditional holiday dish and modify it to reduce calories, fat, and/or sugar. Chances are nobody will even notice!
- Step up the exercise to offset the extra calories
The holidays are a busy time, but challenge yourself to find an extra 30 minutes in your day for physical activity. By burning 300 calories per day beyond what you normally burn, you will offset some of the extra calories you will inevitably take in. You may also consider starting a new holiday tradition that includes activity and does not revolve around food, such as ice skating, sledding or hiking through the snow. If you plan to head out to see Christmas lights, bundle up and walk from house to house rather than riding in the car.
- Focus on quality of food, not quantity of food
You don’t have to eat some of everything. Peruse the buffet table and choose 3-5 dishes that are the most appealing. Take smaller portions of them since they are likely rich and more calorie-laden than the foods you are used to. Enjoy your favorites and skip the rest.
- Don’t go back for second helpings
Whether you’re at a buffet table or an appetizer table, fill your plate once and do not go back.
- Get to the back of the buffet line – reduces the temptation of wanting seconds
If you are first in line to get your food, you will be done eating before the rest of the crowd. As you sit there with your empty plate, you might be very tempted to head back for seconds so you can share in the camaraderie of eating together. If you wait until most others have taken their food, you will be the one still eating while others are sitting with clean plates or going back for seconds.
- Make healthy or non-food gifts
Do you really need to make cookies, candies, chocolates, and caramel corn to give as gifts? You will end up licking the bowls, tasting the finished product (probably more than once, for safe measure), and maybe even saving some of each treat for yourself since you worked so hard on them. Most people receiving these gifts are also concerned about holiday weight gain, so they may be very thankful if you spare them the receipt of another batch of gluttonous treats. If food gifts are a must, then try making something healthy like granola, whole wheat bread, home-canned fruits or vegetables, or jam. You can also make non-food gifts such as candles, incense, and Christmas ornaments. Just take a trip to your local craft store and you will find endless possibilities.
- Plan ahead to avoid temptations
If you work in an office, be prepared for the deluge of treats that your colleagues will bring in to share. Bring your own healthy snacks to work so you don’t find yourself diving into a plate of fudge when your afternoon hunger kicks in.
- Remember that drinks do count towards your calorie intake
Be conscious of how many calories you take in from hot toddies, holiday punches, or other drinks that contain sugar or alcohol. While these drinks add significantly to your calorie intake, they may not curb your appetite for food. If you want to enjoy a little more food, save the calories from the drinks and choose water instead.
Celebrate sensibly and avoid putting on weight
The holidays are a time to enjoy the company of good friends, and yes, good food. So go ahead and enjoy those treats that you only get this time of year, but do it sensibly. Eat only the foods you love, and don’t waste calories on treats that are not as good as they look. Keeping the above tips in mind will help you enjoy all the holidays have to offer–without the guilt.
Got any further tips on eating sensibly during the holidays to avoid weight gain? Leave a comment below to share!