How to avoid the holiday weight gain

By Beth Cecil
Owensboro Health Healthpark dietitian

It is so hard to believe the holiday season has arrived again. While we all look forward to the fun holiday festivities, we dread the thought of stepping on platters of snacks the scale at the first of the New Year.

The season brings parties, celebrations and gatherings, all revolving around food. In fact, my husband and I joke that we have an actual social life one month out of the year because each December we get to have Christmas parties with our coworkers, family and friends.

However, this also means making an extra effort during December to avoid that holiday weight gain.

I have written about “healthy” holiday eating before, but this year I have a little challenge for you. Grab a pen and paper and take a few minutes for yourself and come up with at least six strategies you can use to avoid holiday weight gain.

By writing it down, you will be more aware of your goals and be more apt to hold yourself responsible.

Eat well during the day. This means eating low-fat, high fiber meals for breakfast and lunch. While you may think you may be able to “save” all your calories during the day for an evening party, this actually may backfire. More likely you will overeat because you allowed yourself to get too hungry. Whole grain bread or cereals with fruit and low fat dairy are good options for breakfast. Try soups, salads, low fat pasta or a light sandwich for lunch.

Limit holiday baking. A lot of fat and calories can come from our favorite holiday baked goods. This year choose just a few of your favorites and limit the amount you make. Try making smaller cookies and cut cakes and pies into smaller pieces. Splenda, egg whites, and skim milk products can also be substituted in some recipes to save calories and/or fat.

Bring a nutritious dish to parties. Fruit and veggie trays are always popular. But other ideas include salsa or bean dip with baked chips, salads and seafood such as shrimp or crabmeat.

Keep healthy snacks on hand. If you are out shopping and get hungry, fast food or “food courts” can be very tempting. But a small snack may be all you need to take the edge off your hunger and hold you over until the next meal. Keep a piece of fruit, a small serving of nuts or some low fat cheese or peanut butter with crackers close at hand to curb your temptations.

Limit alcohol consumption. If you are trying to manage your weight, alcohol can be a double-edged sword. It is high in calories, and it can also impact your judgment and ability to make conscious and healthy food choices. Remember that the key to alcohol consumption is moderation. This is defined by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Focus on Conversation. Socializing and mingling at holiday gatherings can take your mind off eating. Just make sure you start your conversations away from the buffet table.

And finally, exercise! This may very well be the key to helping you maintain your weight this holiday season. I like to look at exercise not only as being good for me and helping reduce stress, but as a way to allow myself to eat just a little more and not feel too guilty about it. So join an exercise class, get out your treadmill or bundle up and enjoy a nice walk outdoors. Any extra activity will help.