Prevent Holiday Weight Gain by Planning Ahead

Healthy Snacking, Skipping Alcohol Are Good First Steps  

The winter holidays provide plenty of opportunities for families and friends to gather and those celebrations often include plenty of food and drink. Studies show the average American can gain two to seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. And while people may have good intentions to lose that weight in the new year, it does not always happen.

Those extra pounds can have a negative effect on your health. People who are overweight are more at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, joint pain and diabetes. But gaining weight during the holiday is not a given. Whether it is a cookie swap, office party, family get-together on Christmas Day or a New Year’s Eve celebration, you can keep your holiday eating under control by planning ahead and following these tips:

Don’t arrive hungry. Before leaving for holiday event, have a small snack so you do not arrive hungry and grab the first food you see without thinking and end up overeating. If you eat something before you arrive – having protein would be a plus since it helps you feel full – you can take your time and look at the various food offerings and decide what you really want to eat before digging in.  

Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol is full of empty calories. If you do drink, have water or seltzer between alcoholic drinks to cut calories. Alcohol also impairs your judgment making you may think that second plate of desserts is a good idea.

Snack healthy. When you do hit the snack table, fill your plate with healthy options such as vegetables (skip the dip), fruit and rye crackers.

Indulge, but in moderation. Everyone has a favorite holiday treat. When you see yours, go ahead and enjoy a few bites, savoring each one. You will satisfy your craving without taking in too many calories.

Drink water. Get a glass of water and carry it around with you at the party. It will not only give you something to do with your hands besides eating, but will also keep you well hydrated. 

Keep exercising. If you have a regular exercise schedule, try to stick to it as much as possible during the holiday season. It’s not only good for your cardiovascular health, but also reduces stress. When people are stressed, they tend to make poor eating choices.

When you think carefully about what you’re planning to eat and drink at holiday get-togethers, you can make it to Jan. 2 without those extra pounds.

Ashley Garavet, MD, is a family medicine physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca.