Sometimes just even thinking about all the holiday goodies can make you feel like you’ve gained 10 pounds. After all, who can resist all of that decadent chocolate, homemade cookies, and peppermint bark…
...especially when it’s up for grabs at every holiday gathering, including at work!
Indulging throughout the holidays shouldn’t put you to shame, though. It’s okay to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. With the right plan in place, holiday weight gain doesn’t have to be the unwanted gift you get this season.
Below we share 21 tips to help you keep the jiggle away:
- Limit Liquid Calories
This time of year, the creative cocktails tend to flow. Unfortunately, those delicious, bubbly drinks also have a lot of unnecessary calories. White wine is on the lower calorie side with about 120 calories and 0 carbs. Wheat beers and lagers, on the other hand, can clock in around 165 calories per bottle. When drinking, choose wisely as you can easily drink your average dinner calorie allotment in three or so drinks.
- BYOD (Bring Your Own Dish)
Heading to a party but scared you’ll overindulge? Bring your own healthy dish. A hearty chickpea and avocado salad or black bean stew will give you a guaranteed healthy option. Fill your plate with more than half of your dish and then leave a little room to enjoy what the host offers, too. Don’t forget to bring the recipe to share!
- Use a Small Plate
A smaller plate will make your portions seem bigger. This illusion will make you eat a lot less. If you can’t be trusted to pick just one dessert, then pick the smaller plate!
- Shoot for the “5 a Day Rule”
Aim for five fruits and veggies a day to feel your best. Starting your day with a smoothie is a great way to get servings in. Throughout the day, make your snacks fruits and veggies to hit your intake goal.
- Drink Water Between Servings
Our bodies need water to thrive. Between servings of food, down a glass of water. It will keep you hydrated and feeling alert, a must to fully enjoy a holiday party!
- Skip Fad Diets
Now is not the time of year to go on a diet. You’ll beat yourself the moment you don’t “follow the rules.” Instead, opt for eating as healthy as you can.
- Chew Slowly
Research shows that people who eat too quickly often gain more weight over time compared to those who eat slower. Try setting your fork down between bites. It will keep you mindful of your eating and help you enjoy your food more.
- Exercise Daily
You don’t have to do Crossfit workouts to burn off the extra holiday calories. Daily walks, yoga sessions, and even dance parties with your kids all count as exercise. The trick is to make it as fun as a holiday party and you won’t want to skip it. Logging long work hours? Try these desk exercises.
- Never Shop Hungry
Whether you’re shopping in the mall or the grocery store, it’s never wise to do it on an empty stomach. A University of Minnesota study found that being hungry makes your desire to buy products even higher, which means you’re more likely to spend more than you hoped. And, when you shop hungry you’re more likely to indulge in all those free food samples or head to the ever-tempting coffee shop for a sugar pick-me-up.
- Choose Healthy Recipes
As you plan out your holiday meals, opt for healthy recipes. Even if you have old school family-favorite recipes, you can make healthy swaps for ingredients, too. Swap applesauce for oil or eggs in baking. Or use olive or coconut oil in place of butter on your sweet potatoes, for example.
- Prepare to Stand Your Ground
It can be hard to resist all the desserts your grandma makes. Instead of feeling pressure to sample each one — especially if you generally opt for a healthier diet — have a simple sentence or two ready when you feel the peer pressure. A line like “No, thank you. I’ve had plenty and it was all so delicious!” should work like a charm.
- Walk Off Your Meals
After any holiday meal, consider taking a walk. A light stroll after a meal may aid digestion and help with blood sugar control, according to research.
- Skip the Second (or Third) Helpings
It’s hard to deny a second helping of food when the first round was so tasty. Before you head to the kitchen again, give yourself several minutes. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to fully register you’re full.
- Eat Before You Go
The key to avoiding overindulging is to always feel satiated. Never head to a party when you’re hungry. Instead, intake some protein like a handful of raw almonds or an egg. It will keep you from attacking the hors d'oeuvres platter as soon as it comes out.
- Remember Portion Control
It’s easy for our eyes to be bigger than our belly when it comes to gorgeous holiday spreads. Sure, you may not get to sample your coworkers’ famous cheese dip every day, but you also don’t get to take back the calories you consume. Fill half your plate with a salad or other veggies so you’ll get valuable nutrients and also have less room for calorie-rich junk food.
- Snack Light
Healthy snacks are good snacks. But not all snacks are created equal. If possible, avoid the creamy spinach artichoke dip and the rich, buttery crackers. Opt for the shrimp cocktail and veggie crudites. You’ll get filling protein and necessary fiber that will fill you up with nutrients before the main courses arrive. Feeling fuller faster means you’re less likely to go for the second round of apple pie later.
- Say No
During this time of year, it’s easy to say yes to all the fun party invitations. Since most parties are all about food, it can be hard to stick to your healthy diet when you have multiple holiday parties a week to attend. Select one or two that you’d really like to attend and say no to the rest.
When that double-fudge brownie starts calling your name, look for someone else to talk to instead. A conversation won’t increase your calorie count for the day. Just make sure to take the conversation away from the food table.
- Eat Fruits and Veggies First
Fill up on fibrous fruits and veggies before you head to the buffet table. By snacking on healthy options like carrots or strawberries, you get valuable nutrients before the less-nutritious items get piled on your plate. Fruit will also tame your sweet tooth with its natural sweetness.
- Avoid Creamy Sauces
As delicious as creamy sauces make a dish, it also adds a lot of extra calories, too. Butter, cream, and milk usually increase the calorie count for gravies, dressings, and delectable sauces. You can still enjoy the foods that are normally dressed-up. Try potatoes with a pat of butter, salad with oil and vinegar, or red sauce instead of white atop your pasta.
- Mark Parties and Exercise on Your Calendar
Alongside every party you mark on your calendar, be sure to add an extra exercise day in, too. With the holiday rush, it can be easy to excuse skipping workout days. Plan ahead and around gatherings by marking down your spin or Pilates class or even penciling in a lunchtime walk with a coworker.
Holiday Weight Gain is Real
At this time of year, you may notice your pants are fitting just a bit snugger.
Holiday weight gain is a real thing, according to a Texas Tech study. While you won’t necessarily gain a whole size (unless you’re eating holiday food all day, every day), you will likely put on a few pounds if you eat more and move less.
The study monitored participants over a six-week period — between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day — and found women averaged a pound of weight gain, while men gained two pounds over the holiday season.
Add that up year after year, and if you’re not smart about your holiday food choices and activity levels, it could add up to quite a bit of extra baggage.
With Thanksgiving behind us (along with any poor food choices you made), it’s important to remember that you can always start over. Even in the middle of the most food-centered time of year, you can set up a game plan for avoiding holiday weight gain.
By using our tips above and finding an accountability partner, you can kick off 2020 feeling better about your health and wellness than ever before.
Here’s to a new year filled with healthy eating!
What are your best tips for how to eat healthy and avoid holiday weight gain?