I just recently read a survey that the average person gains approximately 5 pounds during the holiday season. I don’t know if it’s one hundred percent accurate but if you’re worried about being part of that statistic, don’t despair. Here’s my holiday gift to you on how to avoid weight gain over the next few weeks!
Below are 15 easy, all-natural tips you can use right now to stay slim, healthy and joyful through the holidays and into the New Year:
1) Don’t leave home hungry – If you show up at a holiday party feeling absolutely ravenous, you are likely to grab whatever is available. Often, that means high fat hors d’oeuvres and munchies like nuts, chips or cheesy dips. Have a high-protein snack such as string cheese with an apple about 30 minutes before you head to the party so you can hold out for the main course.
2) Sip smart – If eggnog is your weakness, consider saving this high calorie treat for one or two special splurges. Fruity punches may also be high in sugar. Smart drink options are: wine, light beer or simple mixed drinks, such as gin and tonic. Remember to take it slow, as alcohol can increase appetite and weaken your healthy eating resolve.
3) Help out your hostess – Offer to contribute an appetizer or side dish when you’re invited to a holiday party. Bring a platter of fresh vegetables with red bell pepper hummus or a big green salad with light vinaigrette. That way, you’ll know there will be at least one healthy thing you can eat.
4) Save calories when you can – You won’t be partying all day, every day during the holiday season (at least I hope not!). Therefore, you can bank away some extra calories by eating healthy, filling meals whenever possible. Try hot cereal for breakfast and turkey on whole wheat for lunch. These smart choices won’t leave you hungry, but will allow you to splurge on your favorite holiday foods.
5) Taste everything – You can eat everything at your neighbor’s holiday open house, as long as you have just a taste. Then, go back and have a small serving of the one or two dishes that you liked best.
6) Fill up on the good stuff – There are plenty of healthy options at most holiday gatherings. Fresh veggies are always a smart choice. Shrimp cocktail is low in calories and loaded with filling protein. Lean deli meats like ham and turkey are fine. Bruschetta, hummus with pita bread, or a small handful of chips and salsa are also filling and reasonably healthy.
7) Know hidden fat traps – You know you should avoid anything fried if you want to stay slim, but there are other fat traps that aren’t so obvious. Any creamy dips, sauces or dressings are likely to be high in fat. Broccoli casserole may sound healthy, but if it’s smothered with cheese, opt for the green salad instead. Sirloin or tenderloin cuts of beef are healthy, but prime rib has twice the calories of leaner cuts.
8 ) Use your freezer – If making holiday cookies is a beloved tradition, don’t skip it in order to stay svelte. Most cookies freeze well. Cool completely, and then freeze in heavy duty Ziploc bags. Defrost one cookie at a time when you want a treat, so there is no temptation to overeat.
9) Make new friends – You can have a lot of fun—and avoid the buffet—by chatting with other party guests and meeting new people. Remember that everyone feels a little awkward about introducing themselves, so others will be grateful when you strike up a conversation.
10) Get exercise insurance – You know you’ll eat more indulgently this time of year, so plan on increasing your exercise quota. Add an extra 15 minutes to your walking routine, do an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill or do the stairs in your office building for 5 minutes twice a day. The extra calories you burn will offset the holiday goodies that could have impact on your weight.
11) Don’t eat with your emotions – Visiting family this year? Relatives can make us a little crazy, so think of ways to avoid downing a plate of cookies before you head out to spend time with loved ones. Pack games that everyone can play, bring something to keep you busy like knitting or a good book, or put your funniest friend on speed dial to help you make light of the situation. You can also think of conversation starters for times when you want to change the subject.
12) Plan for a splurge – You’re going over to Aunt Jan’s house and you know she’s making her cranberry coffee cake just for you. Instead of saying no to something you love, have a regular-sized piece, enjoy every bite, and eat a grilled chicken salad for lunch the next day. It will all balance out.
13) Dress to impress – Whether you are going out with friends or to the PTA potluck, wear your favorite dressy outfit. Do your makeup. Bring out the good jewelry. All these things will make you feel good about yourself, which helps you make smart choices about food. After all, you won’t look as great in your fitted dress after eating half a dozen mini quiche appetizers.
14) Don’t skimp on sleep – Sometimes you’re so busy around the holidays that you don’t get the seven to eight hours of shut eye you need to keep our energy up. If you’re tired, you won’t feel like exercising, and your will power will fail you when your co-worker waves her chocolate chip cookies under your nose. Losing sleep also elevates the levels of hunger hormones in your body, so stay well rested this year and you’ll be able to keep the pounds off.
15) Be kind to yourself – If you go to a party with the best intentions to eat healthy, but fail miserably, do not beat yourself up. Nobody is perfect, and one day will not ruin your diet. It’s very unlikely that you ate enough extra calories to gain even one pound! If January 1st rolls around and you have gained a little weight, exercise and eat well until you’re back to your pre-holiday size.
Photo Credit: Filomena Scalise