Let the holiday celebrations begin! Thanksgiving officially marks the beginning of the holiday eating season. Tasty food and drinks at family get-togethers, office gatherings and holiday celebrations over the next six weeks are sure to delight the taste buds and likely to be bountiful.
With so many delicious choices around to tempt even the most mindful eaters, is it possible to avoid gaining weight?
“The good news is the average weight gain over the holidays is one to three pounds,” says Cathy Clark-Reyes, a registered dietician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “But those pounds are often hard to lose. Having a plan and sticking to it can help keep you from gaining the weight.”
She offers these tips:
- Plan ahead. 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. “Appetizers are probably the worst because you tend to fill up on them mindlessly,” Ms. Clark-Reyes says. Another strategy is to bring a healthy dish to share. Pick something you enjoy and feel comfortable eating if everything around you is rich and creamy.
- 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. “Make lighter versions of drinks that contain a lot of sugar by using half the amount of juice or alcohol and add club soda or tonic water.” You can easily cut the amount of sugar in recipes by about one-third without altering taste or outcome, she adds. Other popular substitutes include:
– Applesauce or prune puree instead of oil
– Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream instead of sour cream
– Milk instead of heavy cream
– Almonds or nuts instead of French onions or croutons
- Prioritize what you eat. Clark-Reyes likes to remind us that it’s a holi-“day,” not a holi-“month” and an excuse to overeat for weeks. She recommends picking something special that you like to eat this time of year when faced with a long buffet line or table full of food. “You don’t have to try a little of everything,” Ms. Clark-Reyes says. “Make eating a special holiday dish a real treat.” Go for greens. And red, orange and blue. Pass up the breads and sweets and opt for fruits and vegetables instead. Follow MyPlate  guidelines which call for filling half of your plate with vegetables.
- Exercise. “With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s very easy to let go of your fitness routine,” Ms. Clark-Reyes said. “This is the most important time to keep it up, even if you do it on a smaller scale.” She recommends working in extra physical activity during holiday errands, such as parking far away from store entrances and taking the stairs instead of elevators and escalators. Maintaining an exercise routine also will help burn extra calories and keep the holiday stress level down. “Don’t let your guard down for the whole holiday season or you can really pack on the pounds,” Ms. Clark-Reyes said. “The day after a holiday meal, pick up where you left off with a healthy eating and exercise routine.”
- Get enough rest. Not sleeping enough can affect our weight. That’s because a well-rested body produces more leptin, the appetite-suppressing hormone. When we’re tired, our body has higher levels of ghrelin, the eat-more hormone. “Schedule time to relax in between holiday celebrations to avoid eating more than you need to.”