10 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
The holidays are often synonymous with overeating and overindulging, especially now during the pandemic where most of us are working from home with the refrigerator and pantry just an arm’s length away. But this doesn’t have to be the case! Here are ten tips for preventing holiday weight gain and ensuring optimal health as you enter the new year.
- Snack wisely – Opt for crudités with hummus or bean dip over traditional chips and dairy-based dips, and nuts & seeds over crackers & cheese. Always carry a snack with you when running errands to prevent temptations from fast food joints and convenience processed, packaged foods. Great snacks to keep on hand are: piece of fruit like banana or apple with nut butter, nuts and seeds, avocado, hard-boiled egg, raw chopped vegetables with hummus or bean dip, sliced deli meat (organic, nitrite-free whenever possible), protein bar.
- Watch portions sizes & food quantity – Fill your plate primarily with non-starchy vegetables (~50-70% of plate – variety of colors, raw and cooked, at least one leafy green with every meal) and eat those first. Wait about 20 minutes before going for seconds to let your brain catch up with your stomach and recognize how full you really are.
- Eat nutritionally balanced meals with a combination of complex carbohydrates/fiber, healthy fats, and protein. These provide a “time-released” source of sugar, allowing sugar to be absorbed slowly and steadily to prevent the peaks and valleys of poor blood sugar regulation.
- Mindful eating – Chew slowly, savor food flavors, indulge your senses, minimize distractions, and enjoy the company of others.
- Limit & watch alcohol intake – Alcoholic drinks are big sources of calories from sugar with no nutritional value. The calories add up quickly and it’s easy to lose track of just how much sugar you’re consuming. Biggest offenders are holiday cocktails that are mixed with sodas or juices, but beer and wine can be problematic too. When trying to prevent weight gain, it’s best to watch liquid caloric intake.
- Limit desserts and sweets – Opt for one of your favorites instead of trying one of everything. A lot of traditional dessert recipes can be made “healthier” by using whole grain, gluten-free, or nut flours; nut and seed butters; and honey and maple syrup as sweeteners, where a little goes a long way. In general, stay away from desserts made of simple carbohydrates, including sugars and refined grains that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients.
- “Health-ify” your cooking techniques – Instead of frying, opt for cooking methods like baking, roasting, grilling, or steaming. Instead of butter and salt, use spices and herbs to create great flavors in your meals. Most spices and herbs have additional health promoting benefits, from decreasing inflammation to stimulating your metabolism, making them the easiest way to use food as medicine!
- Sharing – Bring an appetizer, dessert, or dish to share at dinner parties, one that you know is healthy and that you can eat without feelings of anxiety or guilt. This is especially important if you have food allergies/sensitivities/intolerances. This way you won’t find yourself tempted by other dishes or going hungry.
- Incorporate physical activity with family and friends – Quality time around the holidays is not just lying around on the couch, watching TV. Take group walks/hikes or play football and other games in your backyard.
- Don’t neglect your other determinants of health like adequate sleep, regular exercise, and stress management. Stick to your normal, non-holiday routine and make holiday indulgences the exception, not the norm.
Written by Dr. Alyssa Christoforou