Maintaining A Healthy Weight During The Holidays

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

As the holiday festivities continue, you may find yourself surrounded by big, celebratory meals, with high-calorie appetizers, sugary libations and comforting main dishes. Of course, no holiday feast would be complete without a plethora of decadent desserts, each one looking more delicious than the next. There are all of those leftovers calling your name. Then there is that eggnog—oh, the eggnog! Talk about a calorie catastrophe.

As if all of those yummy foods weren’t derailing your healthy diet enough, you may also have tasty treats lying around, including leftover Halloween candy, homemade cookies and confections often given as gifts to celebrate the season. While it’s a fun tradition to celebrate the holidays with scrumptious, rich foods and beverages, it can lead to the not-so-fun tradition of seasonal weight gain.

Although research has shown that weight gain during the holiday is often minimal—averaging about one to two pounds—the real problem is that we usually don’t lose those extra pounds. The result is weight gain that creeps up on us year after year. After a decade of holiday feasting, you could be carrying around an extra 10-20 pounds, which doesn’t seem so minimal. It’s easy to see how the extra weight accumulates. Not being at a healthy weight puts you at risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.

However, with a few simple strategies, it’s easy to avoid the weight gain. Add equal parts preparation and motivation, add a dash of creativity, and, voila—a healthy holiday season.

Don’t drink your calories. Most alcoholic beverages and holiday drinks (eggnog, cider, and punch) provide empty calories. Stick with calorie-free beverages, like water or unsweetened tea.

Never go to a party or sit down to a holiday meal starving. Have a small, fiber-packed snack and drink a tall glass of water before any big meal to avoid overeating.
Practice portion control. Indulge in those special-occasion, family-recipe foods, but keep the portions small. Put vegetables and fruit on your plate first, and serve yourself smaller portions of protein foods and grains.

Eat slowly. It takes your stomach about 20 minutes to send signals to your brain that you’re full. Really take time to savor each delicious bite.
Rather than hanging around the appetizers or going back up for “seconds,” take yourself away from the food and focus on spending time catching up with family and friends. You’ll enjoy stimulating conversation and avoid mindless munching.

Get rid of leftover holiday candies and treats. Enjoy a few, then toss them. Out of sight, out of mind.

As we enjoy our holiday meals, please bear in mind that some of our neighbors struggle to put food on the table for themselves and their families. We hope you will consider making a year-end gift to Operation Food Search. You can count on us to make wise use of your resources and provide nutritious food to those who count on us this holiday season. Please make your tax-deductible donation by December 31st. Together, we will Nourish our Neighbors in Need.

Visit www.OperationFoodSearch.org to donate. We count YOU among our blessings.