Never Too Early: 5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Temperatures are turning milder, and the holiday season has kicked off with pumpkin carvings and fall festivals. For many, this time of year also unfortunately means weight gain.

As you starting thinking about the annual Thanksgiving feast, keep this in mind: your current weight may be the lightest you’ll be for the remainder of the year, according to a new study by a professor at Cornell University.

Brian Wansink, Ph.D., of Cornell’s College of Business, and a team of researchers, tracked data on adults in the U.S., Germany and Japan and found that the stretch from Christmas to the New Year holiday is the most common time of year adults gain weight in all three countries. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers’ letter to the editor states Americans gained an average of 1.3 pounds over those 10 days.

“Although one or two pounds doesn’t sound like much, if you gain this same amount every year, the pounds add up and can be hard to lose,” said Cathy Clark-Reyes, a registered dietitian with Baptist Health Primary Care. “Having a plan and sticking to it can help you avoid gaining the weight.”

Ms. Clark-Reyes says these five tips can help you navigate through the holiday eating season:

1. Plan – Find out what type of food will be served at the event you’re attending, and eat accordingly before you go. If it’s an appetizer-only event, eat a full meal ahead of time. Bring a healthy dish to share. Or pick something you at least enjoy if the only choices are rich and creamy.

2. Substitute. Swap ingredients in food recipes with lower calorie options, and stay away from high-calorie drinks. “Liquid calories can especially add up quickly,” Ms. Clark-Reyes says. “You can cut a drink’s sugar content by using half the amount of juice or alcohol and add club soda or tonic water to it.”  Other popular substitutes include:

  1. Applesauce or prune puree instead of oil;
  2. Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream rather than sour cream;
  3. Almonds or nuts in place of French onions or croutons.

3. Exercise – Get extra physical activity during holiday errands by parking far away from store entrances, taking the stairs instead of elevators and escalators and maintaining your exercise routine. “Don’t let your guard down for the whole holiday season or you can really pack on the pounds,” Ms. Clark-Reyes said.

4. Sleep – Not getting enough sleep can affect weight. When the body is tired, it has higher levels of ghrelin – the eat-more hormone. And remember to incorporate relaxation time into your busy holiday schedule, Ms. Clark-Reyes reminds us. “Lower stress levels help decrease urges to eat more than what’s healthy,” she said.

5. Be Selective. Try not to use the holidays as an excuse to overeat for weeks.  When faced with a table full of food or a long buffet line, pick one or two small treats that you enjoy eating this time of year. “Think of a holiday dish as a special treat,” Ms. Clark-Reyes says. Choose to eat brightly-colored foods – greens, reds, oranges and blues. Pass up breads and sweets and opt for fruits and vegetables instead.  Follow MyPlate guidelines which include filling half your plate with vegetables.

Get ahead of Thanksgiving calories by participating in the Baptist Health Turkey Day Run Miami 5K/10K, Thursday, Nov. 23, at Tropical Park. The run/walk starts at 7:30 a.m., followed by a Kids’ Trot starting at 9 a.m. For more information and to register, click here.

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