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10 Tips for Weight Maintenance During the Holiday Season

by Kevin Saez
Our nutrition writer's best tips for staying healthy for the holidays. Photo courtesy of Sabina Panayotova (Flickr)

Our nutrition writer’s best tips for staying healthy for the holidays.
Photo courtesy of Sabina Panayotova (Flickr)

The holiday season is now in full-force. Late November to New Year’s Day is a time of joy and celebration, filled with holiday parties and family meals and plenty of delicious food.

Did you know that the average American gains about five pounds in this short time alone? You don’t have to be part of this statistic if you put some though into your holiday habits.

By following these 10 simple tips you can have your cake and avoid holiday weight-gain too.


  • Drink water. Dehydration can often mimic feelings of hunger. A lack of fluids can confuse the part of your brain that regulates appetite, causing you to eat another serving of mashed potatoes, when really you are just thirsty.



  • Stay active. Exercise is an important component of weight maintenance. Even a brisk walk before a holiday party or family meal can have positive effects not only physically, but psychologically as well, since it reduces stress. What not to do? Hours of cardio in an attempt to burn off indulgences. This will most likely lead to overeating later.



  • Do not skip meals. If you have meal plans later in the day, do not try to compensate by skipping meals beforehand. Filling up on nutrient-dense meals that include vegetables, whole grains and protein throughout your day will help prevent overeating once you arrive to the event.



  • Eat your veggies. The fiber content of vegetables will help you feel fuller and aid in regular digestion. Having a leafy green salad before a meal or including a serving of vegetables on your plate will help you eat less of the other options available. At parties, the hors d’oeuvres usually include a veggie tray. Snack on this instead of other options so you can enjoy the main course later.



  • Plate up on protein. A higher protein diet has been proven to decrease appetite and overall calorie intake. Protein is slow to digest in the body, allowing you to feel satisfied longer. Holiday meals generally provide great lean protein sources like turkey and fish.



  • There is no reason to give up your favorite foods during the holidays. Let’s face it. Some holiday sides are downright delicious. However, when you’re sure to include a serving of vegetables and protein, there will be less room on your plate—and in your stomach—for the more calorie-dense options. So go ahead, take a small serving of all the foods you like, but savor and enjoy them. Deprivation generally leads to frustration which can lead to binging. Research has shown that women who followed strict diets were more vulnerable to temptation—and therefore weight gain. Do not restrict. Moderation is key.



  • If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. You grab a slice of cherry pie because it looks good. However, after your first bite you realize it’s mediocre. Toss it. It may sound wasteful, but there is no point in indulging in a dessert if it is not enjoyable! This also goes for your aunt’s “famous” casserole that you feel obligated to take a serving of. Do not allow anyone to make you feel you have to eat something. Learn to say “no” politely.



  • Be a chef for a day. Going to your third holiday event this week not sure that healthy choices will be available? Offer to bring roasted vegetables or side salad. Pinterest is booming with holiday-themed fruit desserts. Even if you decide to bake your famous chocolate chip cookies, at least you know there will be a delicious indulgence waiting for you.



  • Catch your z’s. Between final exams, holiday shopping, travel and late nights with friends and family, getting adequate sleep is easier said than done. Research suggests skimping on sleep can lead to lower levels of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for feeling of fullness, and higher levels of the hormone gherlin, which stimulates appetite. Basically, when you’re tired you will most likely eat more than you need! So rest up!



  • The holidays are not about food, but about spending time with loved ones. Do not allow the fear of weight gain ruin a good time. Relax, socialize, share laughs and make memories with your friends and families during this joyous season.


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