Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
Tips to avoid packing on extra pounds this season
You can celebrate without gaining weight.
From the first slice of pumpkin pie to the last flute of champagne, high-calorie holiday treats are everywhere. We serve rich foods at family meals, send and receive many gifts, share homemade delicacies with co-workers, and enjoy loaded buffets at parties.
For most of us, the autumn and winter holidays just wouldn’t be the same without great food. And the result might not sound so bad: the average person adds about one pound of extra holiday weight, although overweight people gain more. But here’s the tricky part: those seasonal helpings stay put—most people don’t lose it, so it accumulates year after year. And that adds up.
You can have a memorable—and delicious—holiday, yet avoid adding extra pounds. Just follow these tips:
- Forget about trying to lose weight. Whatever weight you are when the season starts is what you want to be when it’s over. Feeling deprived by trying to diet, especially with holiday goodies all around, could cause you to overeat.
- Keep your daily food intake consistent. Don’t skip meals during the week so you can load up at weekend parties. Consistency helps you maintain a healthy weight. If you starve yourself all day for a night event, you’re more likely to eat more than you normally would.
- Be sure to have breakfast. It’s the holidays, so you may be sleeping late. That can throw off your usual meal schedule, tempting you to just grab a cup of coffee and go. Eat at least some cereal after you rise. People who successfully maintain weight loss eat breakfast every day.
- Eat before going out. “Have a little something,” your grandmother might have told you—and she was right. Eat a piece of fruit, yogurt or half a healthful sandwich (such as thin-sliced turkey breast on whole grain bread), and you won’t be tempted to eat a lot right away when you arrive at a holiday event.
- If you drink alcohol, space it out. Alcohol adds lots of calories and may also lower your resolve to eat wisely. Have a half glass of wine and sip it slowly. Follow with a full glass of sparkling water, with a lemon or lime twist. If you want more wine after that, have another half glass. If you’re hosting the party, remember to have lots of non-alcoholic drinks (and non-salty foods) on hand for those who are driving. Also have sugarless drinks available for diabetic guests. Coffee will not help someone get sober—only time can lessen the effects of alcohol.
- Step away from the appetizer table. Don’t chat and eat as you hover over platters of tempting finger foods. Put a few fresh vegetables or fruit wedges on a small plate, then go sit and talk elsewhere.
- Fill half your dinner plate with salad. If you’ve ever put salad on an empty plate, you know it takes over the space. That’s good! Taking a generous portion of salad greens and veggies (with just a drizzle of low-fat dressing) limits room for higher calorie foods. That helps you choose only those holiday specialties you really want to eat and controls portion size as well. When you eat salad before your meal, you also reduce your overall calorie intake.
- Be choosy in your food selections. Enjoy a few of the seasonal specialties you wait for all year and pass up the same-old-same-old. Take moderate portions of holiday foods you love—whether it’s two bacon-wrapped mushroom hors d’oeuvres, or half a slice of glazed pecan pie. Ignore the everyday cheese chunks, chips, dips, pretzels, nuts and brownies—they’re not worth the calorie cost.
- Reconstruct your recipes. If you’re in charge of cooking, or bringing a side dish or dessert, you can carry on holiday traditions without promoting weight gain by doing the following:
- Use fat-free or low-fat dairy products for creamed recipes.
- Purée vegetables to give them a creamy texture.M
- Replace butter in cooking with healthier monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil.
- After taking your portion of a special dessert, reconstruct it to reduce calories by scraping off much of the icing or leaving most of the pie crust on your plate.
- Eat earlier. When you eat late at night, you feel less full than when you eat the same amount earlier in the day. So late-night eaters often eat more to get that feeling of fullness. If you plan an earlier dinner, just make sure it isn’t followed by a 9 p.m. attack on the leftovers.
- Move it. Take brisk walks—every day if possible—to help work off seasonal treats, re-energize yourself and lower holiday-time stress.
- Take an offer you can’t refuse. This is the time of year when some gyms offer free one-week trial periods. It’s a great way to grab a treadmill session or two in bad weather or try a low-impact workout. If going to a gym alone makes you feel uncomfortable ask a friend to go with you. You might like it enough to keep going after the holidays are over.
- Three quick ways to hold off holiday weight:
- Always use a small plate, even for your main course.
- Let everyone else go to the buffet table first. When there are only three mini-quiches left on the serving platter, you’ll be more likely to select only one or two.
- Taking home a leftover favorite? Think portion control. Put it in a sandwich-size plastic bag instead of a quart-size one.
© 2014. National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. All rights reserved. All content provided in this guide is for information purposes only. Any information herein relating to specific medical conditions, preventive care and/or healthy lifestyles does not suggest individual diagnosis or treatment and is not a substitute for medical attention.