10 Tips for Enjoying Holiday Feasts Without Overdoing It

Putting on extra pounds can be avoided with these simple strategies.

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Food is always a big part of celebrating the holidays but the end result could be unwanted extra weight.

On average, Americans gain approximately one to two pounds during the holiday season. This may not seem like much, but weight that accumulates every year becomes more difficult to lose. People who are already overweight tend to gain more (5+ pounds). Just remember that consuming 250 additional calories a day for two weeks turns into a pound you probably don’t want.

Luckily, these extra pounds can be avoided by using simple strategies this holiday season:

  1. Do not skip meals – This is a major pitfall because it sets you up for overindulging. It is actually better to have a light, nutritious morning meal to help control your hunger and keep your metabolism running.
  2. Choose healthier options – Choose carefully from the array of holiday foods and categorize foods you should eat (grilled or baked lean meats or fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, broth-based sauces) versus foods you should avoid (fried foods, processed or fatty meats, high-fat cheeses, refined grains, cream-based gravies/sauces).
  3. Don’t Rush – Eat slowly and savor each bite. It takes ~20 minutes for your brain to receive a signal of fullness from your stomach!
  4. Move away from the food – Don’t hang out at the buffet tables or appetizer trays. This will minimize the unconscious nibbling which can stack on the calories quickly! Try chewing on sugar-free gum to keep you occupied.
  5. Control your portions – Choose a smaller plate (about 6-9 inches) and practice what the “MyPlate” guidelines should look like.
  6. Choose only 1 dessert – Allow yourself 1 serving of dessert: ½ cup fruit cobbler, ⅛ of an 8-inch pie, 2-inch square cake, 2 small cookies, ½ cup ice cream. Consider using the buddy system-by splitting a dessert with someone.  This way you can cut the calories and fat in half and avoid being wasteful.
  7. Be Smart about beverages – You can really limit the number of calories you consume by limiting sweetened and alcoholic beverages. Think about it – would you rather have a slice of homemade apple pie or a can of regular soda? Also, keep in mind that alcoholic beverages can stimulate your appetite and add on extra calories quickly. Consider a “mocktail” that is low in calories such as soda water with a splash of cranberry juice. Water will always be your best friend!
  8. Move More – It’s important to be active all year long, but it’s even more important to squeeze in a workout during this time. Exercise will boost your metabolism and help balance some of the calories you’ll consume over the holidays. Perhaps, start a family tradition that includes physical activity; such as going for a walk, signing up for a 5k (virtual style), adding movements/gestures into a board game. Snowing, no problem. Go sled riding or play in the snow.
  9. Prepare healthy foods –  Examples: Mixed fruit salad or a spinach salad drizzled with olive oil & vinegar are simple to prepare.
  10. Cook with healthier substitutions for fat and sugar – Make your favorite holiday recipes by swapping out a few ingredients for a healthier alternative. For example, replace butter with pureed fruit or applesauce or use low-fat margarine spread. Replace shortening with olive or canola oil. Try cutting sugar by using 25% less of the sugar called for in the recipe, which will not alter the flavor of the recipe. Try using sugar substitutes in baking instead of regular sugar (refer to the box or the manufacturer’s website for directions).

If you end up splurging, don’t beat yourself up – Rather than feel guilty, get back on track the next day. Rather than trying to lose weight during this time, aim to remain weight stable instead. As long as you don’t add on the pounds, you will be ahead of the game once you do try to lose.

If this information was helpful and you want more nutrition tips, be sure to talk to your primary care physician about resources available to you

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