For many of us, the holiday season is also the holiday eating season. The Thanksgiving feast starts it, with leftovers in the days that immediately follow, and then come the holiday parties. UConn Health registered dietitian Linda York provides some steps we can take to avoid overdoing it.
Did you know that most people gain 1 pound every year during the holiday season? It does not seem like a lot, but if you think about it, that means 10 pounds in 10 years. How much did you weigh 10 years ago?
However, this 1-pound-per-year-weight gain is not caused by what you eat on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, or Super Bowl Sunday. It’s what you do between those holidays.
As a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, I find the holidays can be challenging. And I find the following tips can be helpful. So why not practice mindful eating and these healthy behavior tips to help stave off weight gain?
Before the Party or Holiday Dinner:
- Eat before you go to a dinner or a party, so you are not famished.
- Don’t skip meals. When we skip meals and blood sugars drop, we grab whatever is around, which tends to be high in fat and calories. A good idea is to have some protein and carbohydrates before an event. Some favorites of mine are Greek nonfat flavored yogurt, a half sandwich, low-fat cheese stick with fruit, ¼ cup of walnuts with an apple, or a Fiber One granola bar.
- Make something nutritious for the party that you’ll actually eat. For example, purchase a vegetable platter from the supermarket with ranch or Hidden Valley powder dressing mixed with plain nonfat yogurt for a dip or a fresh fruit platter or salad.
- Decide what you want before you go. Will it be the the mixed drink or the dessert? Two appetizers or a meal?
- Don’t forget about exercise, sleep and quiet time. Holidays can be a crazy time. Try to get it in any way you can. Get plenty of sleep and take time to relax or meditate daily.
During the Party or Holiday Dinner:
- Assess the party landscape. Try to go with a mini-meal with a dessert-size plate versus many appetizers. For example, Brie cheese on six crackers with two stuffed mushrooms may have the same calories as a salad with 1 cup of potatoes and 3 ounces of ham. Eating according to the plate is the way to go: ChooseMyPlate.gov.
- When it comes to a meal at a buffet, watch the fat. For example, go easy on gravies, butters, desserts, cheese, and alcohol, which pack on the calories.
- Be careful of drinks that may have a lot of calories. Try to drink non-caloric drinks like seltzer, club soda, or diet orange dry soda with 2 ounces of wine for a sangria-type drink, versus mixed drinks or eggnog.
- Be a two-fisted drinker. Drink one 4-ounce glass of wine or beer and follow that up with 8 ounces of water or seltzer.
As for after the holiday party, see #5 above – don’t forget about exercise, sleep and quiet time. That’s good advice for any day – in any season.
All that said, happy holidays to you and yours!
—Linda York, M.S., R.D., CDE