Packed with social gatherings, celebrations and family events, this is the time of year to eat, drink and be merry! Unfortunately, for many of us it also becomes a time for over-indulging and weight gain. With the hustle and bustle of shopping, parties and heightened time constraints, healthy eating and exercise have a tendency to get pushed aside. The average American gains between 7-10 pounds during the holiday season. To enjoy this season without packing on those extra pounds, we offer some simple tips:
- Eat Regularly. Don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation of an event/party as the likelihood of eating everything in sight once you get there increases. Even better, before going to your event, eat something small such as a piece of fruit or raw vegetables so you are not tempted to overdo it.
- Skip the Appetizers. Appetizers are oftentimes loaded with calories and tend to be over-eaten. Try skipping the appetizers altogether or seek out a healthy alternative such as fruit, vegetables or a small portion of Nuts that can satisfy your appetite until the meal is served.
- Bring a Healthy Dish. When going to a party, preparing a dish lower in fat and calories will help you and everyone that attends have a healthier option. Some healthy suggestions include shrimp cocktail, vegetables with a low fat dip or an assortment of Dried Fruit.
- Don’t Eat Just to be Polite. Don’t feel like you have to indulge each time food and drink is offered to you. If you are not hungry or are not in the mood for a drink, simply say, “no thank you.” Remember, it is not your responsibility as a guest to sample all items on the food table.
- Alternate Alcoholic Beverages. Alcoholic drinks can add a lot more calories to an already rich, high-calorie menu. Holiday favorites like eggnog are especially worth dodging as one cup typically contains over 300 calories. Additionally, try alternating each drink with a water or seltzer.
- Limit your Assortment. Brian Wansink, PhD and author of Mindless Eating, suggests “Putting only two items on your plate when you go to the food table. Return as many times as you like, but only take two items each time. Variety stimulates appetite and if you limit your choices to just a few items and stick with them, it will be easier to control than eating a little bit of 20 different dishes.”
- Be Picky. In conjunction with tip #6, only take the foods that you truly enjoy and/or foods that you don’t have the opportunity to eat the rest of the year. Don’t pass up Grandma’s Fruitcake or that Divine Baklava if you love it and won’t see it again until next year!
- Don’t Clear your Plate. Don’t feel obliged to eat every morsel on your plate. Instead, when you feel full you should simply stop eating. Perhaps the more proactive strategy is to limit the portions put on your plate from the onset.
- Chew Gum. When you don’t want to eat, pop a piece of gum into your mouth. Works well when you are cooking too!
- Keep Exercising. As always, exercising prevents weight gain and can help relieve the added stress the holidays can bring. If you don’t have the time to get to the gym, try to fit in at least a 15 minute walk each day.
Remember, the real meaning of the holidays is about spending quality time with family and friends. So enjoy that time with the ones you love, but attempt to incorporate healthy food choices, make time for exercise and limit (not restrict) those favorite holiday foods. Your mind and body will be grateful!