Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
With the holidays fast approaching, and food and eating surely on the agenda, it becomes a challenge to avoid holiday weight gain.
If you’ve been good all year, all the holiday food can be tempting and can seriously derail even the most stringent weight control plan. Couple this with less-than-active behavior that the holidays can encourage and you’re bound to see some weight creeping on.
According to a 2016 study (New England Journal of Medicine), the average amount of weight gained during each holiday season is approximately one pound. Doesn’t seem like much, right? The bad thing is that most people retain that weight even after the holidays are over. And over the years, this adds up and contributes to your annual weight gain.
You don’t have to be part of the statistics. It’s possible to enjoy those sumptuous holiday treats AND still not gain a single pound. Here we give you 10 tips on how to avoid holiday weight gain and still have your cake (or eggnog, cookies, or turkey), too!
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #1 - Never Arrive Hungry
Before going to a party where there’s bound to be a spread of tempting holiday food, it’s best to “ruin” your appetite with some healthy and nutritious snacks. If you do get to the party hungry, drink some water to fill you up before checking out what’s on the table.
Eating prior to going to a party will curb your tendency to load too much food onto your plate.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #2 - Snack Wisely
When you do eat a snack before a party or whenever you get the craving to snack, do so wisely. Because it’s the holidays, there’s bound to be a lot of delicious snacks and goodies wherever you go. Let’s face it - these things are most likely sugary, buttery, and calorie rich. Most tasty things are!
You don’t have to avoid snacking altogether. Just be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of reaching for snacks just because they’re there.
If you’re mostly at home, our tip is to keep these snacks out of sight. While it’s festive to have a nice, heaping bowl of holiday candies or a Santa-cookie-filled jar on display, it will not help you on your quest to avoid holiday weight gain.
If you’re at work or attending a party and you’re in need of a snack, opt for healthier choices that don’t provide empty calories. Nut or seeds, fruits, and vegetables are filling yet don’t contain added sugars or unhealthy fats.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #3 - Eat Meals That are Balanced with Protein
Holiday tables are notorious for being “carb”- centric. Think pastas, mashed potatoes, bread, cakes, and cookies. To balance out your meal, eating protein with meals is highly recommended.
Proteins help you feel full, thus reducing hunger and appetite. More importantly, they help increase metabolism and elevate the levels of hormones that help curb appetite. Experts recommend a 25 to 30 gram serving of protein with each meal for weight management.
Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, and fish. If you’re a vegan, plant based proteins including beans, quinoa, tofu, and tempeh are excellent choices.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #4 - Up the Fiber Consumption
Another nutrient that can give you the feeling of fullness is dietary fiber. Because you feel fuller faster with fiber, you naturally reduce calorie intake and this helps you avoid holiday weight gain. Other benefits of fiber are:
✔️ It promotes blood sugar control
✔️ It adds bulk to the digestive tract and stimulates the intestines
✔️ It helps reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancer
When choosing from the holiday table, fill up your plate with fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds instead.
For instance, instead of helping yourself to a big scoop of mashed potatoes, add carrots, beets, or broccoli as sides to your turkey. Or have some quinoa, instead. It’s not only a protein rich food, it’s also an excellent dietary fiber.
For fruits and vegetables, focus on getting your 5 servings a day quota.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #5 - Portion Control is Key
Sometimes, when there’s an abundance of food on the table, it gets difficult to control the amount that you add to your plate. A great trick is to use smaller plates, especially when helping yourself to the buffet table.
Go with a salad plate instead of a full 12-inch dinner plate. Don’t stack up on the amount of food that you put on it either. It doesn’t really make sense to have a small plate that is also piled high and groaning with food.
When making your choices, think quality over quantity. Choose the foods that you truly enjoy.
Once your plate is full, pace yourself and eat slowly. Doing so allows your body time to register fullness. Take time to savor your food. We guarantee, you will not only eat less but you will also better enjoy every morsel that’s on your plate.
Needless to say, it’s really also not a good idea to go for seconds. Multiple servings (even on small plates) can rack up the calories that lead to weight gain.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #6 - Limit Dessert
A holiday table wouldn’t be complete without the desserts. And to some, having no dessert at all would be some kind of torture. The solution to this is to limit your intake to small portions.
You can try a sampling plate. Get small amounts of the desserts that you like, one bite size of each if possible. Or try a small portion of a single dessert that you truly like and take your time to savor it.
Sometimes, you just have to cave in to your cravings. “Forbidding” a specific food or a group of food can actually make you want to eat more of it. Giving it a go but in moderation is the better approach to avoid holiday weight gain.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #7 - Watch Out for Those Liquid Calories
Unless it’s water, beverages can jeopardize your diet plan. Alcohol, soda, and other drinks can add a significant amount of sugar and empty calories to your diet, and this can cause weight gain.
Alcohol poses a double threat. Having a bit too much can also affect your judgement and the ability to control the amount of food you eat.
Here’s a useful tip on eggnog. Instead of having it in the traditional short, squat glass, have it served in a tall thin glass (like a champagne flute) which can hold less liquid.
Instead of these calorie laden drinks, drink plenty of water. Doing this makes you feel full and, as a result, you consume less calories.
Another useful tip - when it becomes awkward to be the only one without a glass in hand, sip on some sparkling water or club soda instead.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #8 - Bring Your Own
When appropriate, bring your own dish to share. This can especially work if it’s a potluck party. Bring a healthy side dish or dessert. This gives you a fallback plan when what’s on the menu can derail your weight loss goals.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #9 - Cook Healthy
When you’re doing the cooking, you have more control on the ingredients to use. It’s possible to still turn out tasty meals yet use healthy substitutions.
For instance, for your holiday baking, you can use sugar substitutes like stevia or xylitol to sweeten your baked items. Butter can be replaced with applesauce or mashed bananas.
Use healthier cooking methods including grilling, baking, or steaming instead of frying. Take advantage of the flavor that herbs and spices provide to make your dishes tasty while still being healthy.
While you may think that cutting all fats is ideal, in reality we still need fat in our diet. It provides energy and allows us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A,D, E and K. Fat also allows us to feel full.
Instead of using butter and oils rich in saturated fats (canola, vegetable, sunflower oil), try incorporating foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, or olive oil.
When doing holiday cooking, avoid too much taste testing. People lose their appetite when they have been doing the cooking. You may think this is good and this is a great way to eat less, unfortunately, this is just because you’ve been eating the whole time. It’s best to limit taste testing each dish to one spoon each before seasoning and after.
Finally, it’s best to opt to cook your meals from scratch. While it’s tempting to use processed foods to make the preparation of your holiday feast easier and faster, these often contain excess sugar, sodium, and trans fats. Cooking from scratch enables you to control what goes into your food and this makes it easier to control your weight and diet.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #10 - Practice Healthy Habits
It’s tempting to just sit on the couch watching Christmas movies while sipping on eggnog and munching on cookies after the big meal. However, inactivity can contribute to weight gain.
What’s a better alternative? A family walk or any physical activity can burn off some extra calories while also preventing everyone from thinking about food for awhile.
Get plenty of sleep
Getting enough sleep can help control weight because lack of sleep can impact appetite. To help you get better quality sleep, turn off electronics in the bedroom and avoid high-fat foods at night.
Control stress levels
While the holidays are a time of good cheer, there’s no denying that they can also be a cause for stress. Rushing to prepare for holidays feasts, shopping for gifts, even travelling to get to family reunions can take a toll on your nerves.
This can trigger cravings and increased eating. Try some relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or some form of exercise to help manage stress.
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