Worried about holiday weight gain? Follow these tips to avoid it

  • Thursday, November 21, 2013

The holiday season is officially in full swing. With this time of year comes an array of parties to attend and traditions to unlock that we look forward to all year round. Many of these events and traditions involve rich, decadent food - your aunt’s famous pumpkin roll, egg nog by the fire or cookie exchanges with friends and coworkers. This time of year requires a bit more willpower from us if we are concerned about our weight. I say moderation is key. The average person gains two pounds over the course of the season. So, to help you avoid holiday weight gain, keep these tips in mind:

1. Aim to maintain weight, not lose it - I don’t advise stressing over weight loss during the holiday season if this is one of your goals. Enjoy your traditions; just keep in mind- moderation. A client of mine once told me she loves red wine so much that she wants to always be able to drink it. So she does so - in moderation, to enjoy and not overindulge. I thought this was a good ideology.

2. Maintain your exercise routine - to feel energized, relieve holiday stress and allow you to better cope with unanticipated situations. Walking just 20 minutes every day is beneficial for all of this. Furthermore, weight maintenance is about energy balance. You have to use the energy you take in. For diabetics, daily exercise assists with blood sugar control which can be more challenging during this time of the year.

3. Eat breakfast and avoid skipping meals - This is an important component to maintaining a healthy metabolism overall but also, skipping meals only to indulge later typically backfires. When our bodies become overly hungry we end up consuming more calories, more quickly than we would otherwise. It takes about 20 minutes for our brain to register feelings of fullness. And did I mention self-control typically goes out the window? Instead, start the day with a healthy, hearty breakfast that includes a source of protein. Oatmeal with a handful of chopped walnuts and berries is a great option. Try to eat something every four to five hours.

4. Eat healthy on days surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas - for obvious reasons. Include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Eat “cleaner” on these days.

5. Balance your plate and scan the spread before digging in - be picky (just because it is there doesn’t mean you have to put it on your plate, especially if it isn’t something you love) and include some non-starchy vegetables like green beans, salad, brussel sprouts or carrots. These are lower in calorie and help you feel full so that you better portion control higher calorie items like casseroles and desserts.

6. Don’t drink your calories - we all love holiday punches, ciders, cocktails and hot toddies but some of these drinks can pack on the pounds if included every day. A glass of Egg Nog can contain up to 350 calories, 19 grams of fat and 22 grams of sugar per cup. The standard peppermint mocha may have up to 450 calories. In this case, hot cocoa would be a better choice with only 120 calories, 4 grams of fat and 15 grams of sugar per glass. * As far as alcohol goes, decide how many drinks you will have beforehand and stick to it. Binge drinking for some can alter blood pressures, electrolytes; cause palpitations and overtime may cause damage to the cells that control blood flow. Moderation, remember.

7. Keep healthy, non-sugary snacks around the house - fresh vegetables, fruit, hummus, yogurt, popcorn, rice cakes, almonds, walnuts and peanuts are a few good choices. Diets high in added sugars are associated with larger mid-sections and sugar is basically empty calories. Before going to a holiday party, have a light snack because oftentimes the appetizers offered won’t be as healthy as those snacks you have at home.

8. That being said, leave what you bring to parties, at the party. One slice of pecan pie has about 480 calories. An additional four pieces could pack on half a pound of weight. Take a slice home and leave the rest.

Enjoy the holiday season and focus on time with friends and family. Stay tuned for how to serve a healthier holiday meal.


Lauren Zimmerman is a registered dietitian originally from Rock Hill, but has made the Old Village home over the past few years. She works in a cardiac rehabilitation center where day to day she teaches a heart healthy diet to her patients through weekly education classes and one-on-one counseling sessions. She lives and breathes healthy eating and enjoys making it practical for those she is helping. Outside of work she enjoys cooking, art, music, bike riding and seeing the ocean as frequently as possible.

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