Dining Out, Holidays, and Special Occasions
Healthy Holiday Eating
November 27, 2017 /
Food is everywhere during the holiday season, which makes it harder to stick to your healthful eating and exercise habits. However, with a little attention and advance planning, it is possible to make it through the holidays without losing track of your healthy lifestyle.
Is it true that the average person gains 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day?
People often do gain weight during the holidays, but how much weight? In 2000, a study of 195 adults showed an average holiday weight gain of between .75 pounds (lb) and 1 lb. However, 14% of those studied gained 5 lb or more. In this study, those who were overweight or obese gained more holiday pounds than those who were normal weight. According to the study, while most people gain less than 1 lb during the holidays, most fail to lose that weight, afterward, so holiday weight gain is one reason that your weight creeps up from year to year.
What can I do to prevent gaining weight over the holidays?
Are you dreading the holiday season because you think you will gain back all of the weight you have lost in the last 6 months? The best advice is to change your mind-set. Do not expect to lose weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Instead, focus on not gaining weight. For success, keep a regular exercise pattern and healthy diet during this time, but allow yourself some flexibility in your eating. After all, the fine food of the holiday is one of the pleasures of the season.
Allow yourself to splurge on foods that make your holiday season meaningful. Enjoy your favorites in small amounts. Try to cut back in other ways, keep your exercise schedule on track, and increase the frequency and intensity of your workouts whenever possible.
What can I do to stay active when I am traveling and cannot get to my gym?
Exercising during the hectic and sometimes stressful holiday season can help you maintain your weight and sanity. If you are a true “gym rat,” ask if your gym has a national network of gyms. Many allow you to use a gym anywhere in their network at no additional fee. In addition, most gyms will allow you to visit as a guest, although sometimes at a hefty fee!
Walking, running, or stair-climbing are easy when you are traveling—you can do these activities almost anywhere. For resistance training, check your sporting goods store or online for rubber resistance bands. They slip easily into a travel bag and are lightweight—use them to strengthen and tone almost any body part.
You may need to adjust your expectations for holiday exercising. Try to stay flexible. Know that you might miss out on some workouts. Sneak in exercise whenever you can by taking a walk after a large meal, for example. Make sure to get back to your regular exercise routine when you return home.
How can I stay on track and not overeat at holiday functions?
You can keep your calorie intake under control in many ways. Try these tips and see which work best for you:
- Survey the entire table before you take any food. Decide what foods are worth eating and which you can ignore, and then stick to that decision. Why waste calories on foods that do not bring you pleasure?
- Eat a snack before you leave home. If you arrive at a party starving, you are more likely to eat too much.
- Eat your calories instead of drinking them. Stick to lower calorie or calorie-free drinks (diet sodas, water, lite beer, or a wine spritzer), instead of punches, eggnog, and mixed drinks that can have up to 500 calories/cup.
- Sip a large glass of water between every alcoholic drink, nonalcoholic punch, or eggnog. This will help keep you hydrated, and you will drink fewer calories by the end of the night.
- When you are hosting, make sure the menu includes lower-calorie foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. When you are a guest, bring along a lower-calorie dish to share.
- Try not to hang out near the food. Find a comfortable spot across the room, and focus on people instead of eating.
- Watch your portion sizes. Do not cover your plate completely with food. When it comes to holiday sweets and alcoholic beverages, less is better.
- Drop out of the “clean plate club.” Leave a few bites behind every time you eat, and even more, if you are eating something you do not really care for.
- Enjoy your favorite holiday treats, but take a small portion, eat slowly, and savor the taste and texture of the wonderful foods of the season.
- Visit these websites for free reduced-calorie and reduced-fat recipes:
Roberts SB, Mayer J. Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction? Nutr Rev. 2000;58:378-379.
Reviewed and Updated November 22, 2017Originally Published January 11, 2017