Americans typically gain about one to two pounds during the holidays, and while that may not seem like much, those extra pounds can add up over the years. A Cornell University study in a 2016 publication of the New England Journal of Medicine reported a study on weight gain over the holidays and found that while half of those who gain weight lose it shortly after the holidays, the other half do not lose it until after Easter. Consider making a November resolution to not gain extra weight during the holidays instead of a new year’s resolution to lose it.
Eating healthfully can become especially difficult throughout the holiday season, but there are several ways to combat unhealthy holiday habits. Anne Lowery, associate professor and director of the Dietetic Internship Program highlighted the importance of family and encourages us to remember the “reason for the season” during the holidays.
“This holiday season, focus on the joy and the taste of the food, the work that went into making the food, and the relationships you have with the people around that food,” said Lowery. “As you gather around a meal with family and friends for the holidays, remember to take in the joy of the time you spend together.”
Lowery used knowledge from her career as well as resources from The Academy of Nutrition and dietetics, and the Center for Disease Control to compile some simple tips for maintaining a healthy weight over the holidays.
- Don’t skip meals
Dietitians have found that if you skip meals, you tend to overeat later. We might think we need to save up our calories for a big holiday party, but you will be better off having a few small meals throughout the day.
- Eat breakfast
Research shows that those who eat breakfast tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Try kicking off your metabolism in the morning with a stable breakfast.
- Include high fiber foods
It is important to eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains which are high in volume, keeping us full for a longer time and are usually lower in calories.
- Eat smaller portions
As we know, holiday meals are often very large, including buffets of appetizers, main dishes and desserts. One can overeat easily and it is a common mistake to eat large portions of foods that are perceived as healthy in these situations. Try to focus on including nutrient-rich foods in normal portions. You can include dessert in that, just in smaller portions.
- Choose a strategy to avoid over eating and stick to it
There are several strategies to avoid overeating. Using smaller plates can be helpful to keep from overeating, while also avoiding returns to a buffet for seconds and thirds. Consider filling the plate with vegetables first and then add in smaller portions of entrees and desserts. Eat slowly and mindfully which helps to identify fullness.
- Keep moving
Don’t get overwhelmed trying to stick to a formal exercise plan, just find a few ways to get moving over the holidays. Try getting up and moving for 10 minutes several times a day and let that add up. Get up from your desk or couch and walk around your building or home. Park a little further from the building when you go shopping and get a few extra steps in that day. Instead of taking the elevator or escalator, opt for the stairs and add in a few more steps. Even a few minutes each day can add up and help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Fit in your favorites
It is important to include our holiday favorites in our meals because no food is naughty. Savor the smaller servings of your holiday favorites and think ahead to include that food into your meal plan instead of adding in an extra that was unaccounted for.
- Get your sleep
A lot of people underestimate the importance of getting good sleep. A lack of sleep makes it harder for the body to control blood sugar. Studies have shown that when you are sleep deprived you crave the high-fat and high calorie foods. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep every night and to set your metabolism back into sync and to regulate your blood sugar.