I had not one but two delicious, fabulous, mouth-watering Thanksgiving Day feasts. Turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, oh my! And this is just the beginning. As I look at the calendar, the next four weeks are full of holiday parties, dinners out, family gatherings, and other events that will be teeming with scrumptious spreads. It’s no wonder that so many Americans struggle with weight gain over the holidays.
Despite the temptations that surround us, there are strategies we can implement to prevent weight gain while enjoying the festivities:
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Be sure to start your day off with a nutritious breakfast—preferably one that includes protein and whole grains (such as peanut butter on whole wheat toast) as well as some fruit and dairy. Be sure to eat healthy snacks throughout the day. The last thing you want to do is arrive at a party feeling famished and then eat everything in sight.
- Carefully select food choices. Think about what you want to “spend” your calories on. Skip the “ho-hum” dishes and enjoy your favorites, considering which ones are healthier and keeping portion sizes in mind. You may opt to skip gravy and other high-calorie condiments. Remember that old habits die hard. Are you truly hungry enough for seconds, or are you heading back for more just because that’s what you usually do?
- Watch the liquid calories. Eggnog, hot chocolate, peppermint mochas—there are plenty of high-calorie drinks to savor. Unfortunately, researchers have found that they don’t make our stomachs feel full. If we consumed the same number of calories in the form of a food instead of a drink, our stomachs would feel more satisfied. Think of sweetened drinks as an occasional treat and be mindful of how many calories they contain. Also, be wary of alcoholic drinks. Not only do they increase your caloric intake, but they can also make you feel more uninhibited and therefore more likely to overeat.
- Don’t linger near the food. Where are your feet? If they’re near the buffet or in the kitchen, step away! You’ll be more likely to graze if you’re close to the food, so socialize away from it if possible. At buffets, try to choose a smaller plate if one is available.
- Think vegetarian. Many parties will include dishes for vegetarian friends and family members. Fruit and veggie-based dishes tend to be healthier and may be good choices. Even if they’re relatively high in calories, they usually have more nutritional value. One strategy is to fill up on fruits and vegetables and take only small tastes of the other dishes.
- Make time for exercise. Schedule time for exercising in your calendar and stick with it. A busier schedule makes it harder to find time to work out, but get in what you can, where you can, even if it’s for only 10 or 20 minutes. Get in extra steps when possible by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking far away from the entrance of a store, and taking a walk over your lunch hour. Start a new family tradition by inviting everyone to join you for a walk before dinner.
- Focus on people, not food. In your mind, emphasize that the holidays are about reconnecting with friends and family, not about eating. Pace yourself, eat slowly, and revel in good conversation. Make it a goal to learn more about a coworker or have a meaningful conversation with an acquaintance. Share what’s going on with you, enjoy chatting, and most importantly, have a wonderful time.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Do the best you can to eat healthfully, sneak in some exercise, and make healthy choices. Keep all good things in moderation and have yourself a very merry holiday season.