The holiday season is a busy time of year dominated by social engagements. Many people find the hectic pace of the holiday season makes it challenging to eat healthy, especially since so many holiday parties include desserts and high-calorie foods.
Various studies suggest holiday weight gain is common, though holiday revelers may not be gaining as much weight as they think they are. The New England Journal of Medicine found that while people’s perceived holiday weight gain hovers between zero and 6.7 pounds, in reality most people gain just under one pound during the holiday season. Though that may not seem like a lot, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health, many people never lose the weight they gain during the winter holidays. The pounds add up year after year, making holiday weight gain a significant contributor to adult obesity.
The holiday season does not need to derail a healthy lifestyle. Consider these tips to avoid extra pounds come the holiday season.
Eat before you go shopping. Leaving the house hungry may tempt you to make impulse food purchases that can compromise healthy diets. It’s easy to grab a quick convenience item at the food court or from a vending machine. However, eating a snack before you leave will alleviate hunger and you can control the foods that go into your body.
Make smarter food choices. When visiting a holiday party buffet line or grabbing an on-the-go snack, think about the foods you choose. Look for low-calorie items that will still fill you up. Proteins, complex carbohydrates and vegetables are good choices. Avoid creamy dips and dressings, and if you want to try something fried or cheese-laden, do so only sparingly.
Be selective with sweets. Sweets are readily available during the holiday season. Rather than filling up your plate with a little ‘bite’ of each dessert you want to try, select your favorite and then enjoy a reasonable portion.
Limit sampling while cooking. If you are entertaining others, cut down on tasting while you prepare the meal. Those calories can add up without you knowing it, and soon you’ve eaten an entire portion even before the festivities begin.
Pack healthy snacks. It’s always a good idea to have healthy snacks at the ready to tame random hunger pangs. Bring a favorite treat with you while shopping or if you will be visiting others. This helps you control your portion size and can keep you from overeating.
Mind your drinks, too. Many beverages, including alcoholic beverages and sweetened soft drinks, are high in calories. A single serving of wine can have anywhere from 100 to 300 calories. It’s easy to lose count of caloric intake when indulging, but opt for low-calorie drinks or water whenever possible.
Increase your level of physical activity. Find ways to remain physically active during the holiday season. Park further away from mall entrances so you can walk a greater distance and burn more calories. Take a few extra laps around the mall. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. If you’re at a party with upbeat music, get on the dance floor and work off some calories.
Holiday weight gain may seem like an inevitability. However, with some forward thinking and smart choices, holiday celebrants can prevent weight gain this holiday season.