It’s the holiday season and it doesn’t take more than a trip to the mall (or the breakroom) to know that this season is all about food. This is a challenging time for anyone who is working to stay healthy and avoid weight gain. What are you to do? Here are 10 tips to help you maintain weight while still enjoying the holidays.
Be Proactive and Deliberate with Food Choices
Food is everywhere during the holidays- with most of it being less than healthy. Make sure that you plan ahead and have healthy snack and meal options available for meal and snack times. If you do choose to have a holiday treat, make sure it’s one that you know you love and choose a small portion. If it’s something you just like OK, say no. There will definitely be other options later that will be worth the calorie expense to you!
Choose Healthier Holiday Foods
In order to help decrease less healthy foods, strive to have healthy, tasty, holiday foods available. If you need a healthy snack while wrapping gifts or preparing the meal, have a fresh veggie tray with hummus or light ranch dip available to encourage healthy munching. Make sure to choose lean protein as the focus of the holiday meal that does not have a lot of added fat (ex. baked turkey, ham, salmon), have a few non-starchy vegetables available (ex. fresh salad, veggie tray, mashed cauliflower, modified green bean casserole with low fat soup and almonds instead of onions), some fresh fruit and starchy vegetables without added sugar (ex. pomegranate, savory sweet potatoes vs. those with added sugar), low calorie beverages (try infused water), and lower calorie desserts (ex. pumpkin pie with Reddi whip instead of pecan pie with ice cream). Check out this blog post for some healthy holiday recipes!
Cut Out Liquid Calories
Whenever possible, don’t waste your daily calories on liquids. Of course water is the best liquid option: add sliced strawberries and mint for a festive, delicious, infused water. Other low calorie holiday beverages include: diet hot chocolate, sugar free apple cider, hot herbal teas, sugar free egg nog, or sparkling diet fruit drinks poured into fancy glasses with ice.
Keep Your Everyday Food Environment Healthy
This is always important, but especially true during the holidays when unhealthy food is so prevalent. It’s simple: if you do not keep unhealthy foods in the house, you won’t be eating them in the house. Your everyday environment is crucial for practicing true moderation with less healthy foods. When you do have less healthy foods in your home for special events, use them for the event, and then get them out of your home so you are not tempted to continue to eat them after the event.
You can also help yourself when you leave your home. Whenever possible, avoid passing the “breakroom sweets” and ask coworkers to hide their candy. Keeping unhealthy foods out of sight can help decrease your likelihood to eat them. Change your driving route if it means avoiding that holiday milk shake at Chick-fil-A; keeping a restaurant or store where you would likely buy something unhealthy out of sight can help you make better choices.
Studies show that we eat more when there is more variety available. On holidays and during holiday parties, limit the number of dishes you make. Especially take care to limit dessert to no more than 1-2 choices. This will help you to eat less without even thinking about it as it is natural for us to want to “try everything.”
Splurge, but Only in True Moderation
The holidays can be an appropriate time to allow yourself to eat a few less healthy foods. Tradition and community are very important and much of this is food related. The key is to eat these less healthy foods in true moderation. Make sure to set some ground rules for yourself before celebrating, such as limiting unneeded extra calories to no more than 300 at each event (this would include less healthy savory dishes, sweets, and alcohol), and trying to keep these events to no more than twice per week during the holidays. Another way to look at it is to make a deliberate choice of only 1-2 less healthy foods that are your absolute favorite at each event, up to twice per week.
Decrease Christmas Candy
This is simple: buy less candy. Choose inexpensive, non-food stocking stuffers instead of candy for kids and adults such as from the dollar store or Black Friday sales. Give family members foods that they love but may be a healthy treat such as deluxe nut mixes, jerky, fancy fruit, or gourmet coffee. Any candy you do buy think quality instead of quantity, such as gourmet chocolate like Godiva or Lindt.
Maintain and Increase Activity
Don’t let the holidays stop your exercise routine. If you need to, move the exercise routine to a time of day when other events are not likely to creep up: early morning or on the way home from work works well for many. Seize opportunities to increase activity, such as taking extra laps around the mall when holiday shopping, walk the neighborhood to see the lights instead of driving, or play your own fun game of football with family on Thanksgiving.
Don’t Let Holiday Treats Linger
Put a hard stop date on holiday celebrating. When the holidays are over, do not buy the clearance candy and goodies. Do not make enough treats to keep in your freezer for later – make less or give these away. Enjoy the holiday during the holiday, but then get back to an overall healthy diet with very limited splurges on the concrete date you decide.
Lead Healthy Change by Example, Be Ready to Share, and don’t be Surprised at Resistance Chances are, someone will recognize your efforts at having a healthier holiday. Be ready to declare your change and your motivation for these changes. Examples may include your health, your family’s health, being a good example for your children, or having more energy to navigate holiday stress. Many may come on board with you – this blog and website would be a great resource to share, as well as how the healthy changes you make improve your personal health. Some may be resistant to change, especially if it affects them directly. Do not be surprised by this and remember you can only control you. Control you the best you can so that others can see you lead healthy holiday change by example!
Have a happy, healthy holiday season!
Leah E. Beiermann, RD
Recipient of the Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management