A Dietitian’s Insight for Maintaining a Healthy Weight during the Holidays

Tips for Healthy & Happy Holidays:

As we continue through the Holidays and approach the shorter days and longer nights, meals often become bigger or are eaten out more frequent, and desserts may be a regular occurrence. However, I’m here to let you know you can maintain a healthy lifestyle during the Holidays with your will power and a few of these tips!

If you are in a hurry and need a quick bullet point list of suggestions, here you go:

  • Fill your plate half full with vegetables, a fourth whole grains, and a fourth lean protein
    • Make sure the dish you bring to family/friend gatherings fits in at least one of these spots
  • Incorporate physical activity each day, make it fun for the whole family
  • Trade in the soda for seltzer water or plain old water
  • Pick one dessert, not all 5, and have a small sample to enjoy it but not ‘over-do’ it
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. This can help with cravings and unhealthy habits
  • Having a planned, healthy snack before attending any holiday party can help reduce urges to binge/ over-do it
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Recommendations for men are no more than 2 drinks a day, women no more than 1 drink a day (these do not ‘roll over’ like vacation days!)
    • 1 drink = 5 fl oz wine, 12 fl oz beer, 1.5 fl oz liquor
    • Look for drink options with no added sugar
  • Schedule a work out class or plan to do a home exercise video before attending a holiday party. This will start the healthy habits that you’ll feel more motivated to keep up through the night
    • If it’s nice, take a walk! A walk before or ideally after a meal is also always a good idea

 If you have more time, here are the longer-winded suggestions:

Stock up on fun over sweets.

When family and children come to town it can be easy to want to fill the candy bowl or cookie jar, but if that becomes a temptation for you, instead provide fun non-candy, dollar store items that the kids, even some adults, will still love. Examples include glow sticks, coloring books, whoopee cushions, bubbles, stickers, and temporary tattoos. Sound similar to a suggestion in our Tips & Tricks for a Healthy Halloween post? You’re right! I mentioned some were transferable to other holidays.

Eat healthy first.

If you’re going to an event or meal out, control hunger by eating a healthy meal or snack beforeThis is where having a lean protein, whole fruits, and variety of vegetables are the best choice to keep you satiated enough to avoid giving into extreme hunger and overeating at social events.

Bring your own portion-controlled plate and cup.

Those large dinner plates can cause us to pile on far more than a single portion of food, and as possible members of the childhood ‘clean plate club’, we are often inclined to try and finish all the food on our plate. To help with this, bring your own or find a smaller plate (ideally 9 inches), maybe even find one with sectioned out portions, so you are more aware of how much you are consuming. Take it a step further and bring or find a 5 ounce cup and limit to one small high calorie beverage in this cup then stick to water for the rest of the night.

Eat mindfully.

We often overeat because we revert to unconscious eating. When this is taking place we do not recognize when we are full until we are too full. Eating mindfully helps us to slow down and focus on what we are eating and how much to create a better connection between physiological need and mental state. This can also lead to making healthier choices in addition to eating less.

Buddy up.

Ask a friend, family member, coworker, or significant other to be your support system through the holidays. This person may have similar weight goals, healthy lifestyle change goals, or someone who will just be there to eat healthier with you and cheer you on. This person is a support system to remind you of your goals, NOT shame you. Be sure to pick someone who is positive and uplifting and you can have a honest conversation with about what you need from them. This buddy can help bring joy and camaraderie to the pursuit of eating healthy during the holidays.

Living life in moderation is always important but especially important to keep in mind during this time of year. The Holidays do not have to be a time of unwanted gain. Practice mindful decisions, balance, and proper portions for a happy and healthy Holiday season. And when it doubt, do not hesitate to seek out guidance from a professional in their field of expertise such as a Registered Dietitian in your area.

Written by Jennifer McCann, MS, RDN, LD

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