The holiday season is a wonderful time of year spent with friends and family with many great traditions and activities. Unfortunately, it is also a common time of year for unhealthy eating and decreased activity levels. The average American gains 1-2 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Years. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, research shows that weight gain from the holiday seasons tends to stick around, accumulating year after year. Here are a few tips that can help you avoid holiday weight gain while still enjoying all of the festivities.
Do Not Skip Meals
First, although it may seem counterintuitive, it is important not to skip meals with an anticipation of a big meal later on. You may think you are saving up calories, but that is usually not how it works. Skipping meals actually results in over-eating and backfires in the end. Instead, focus on having a lower calorie, healthy breakfast and lunch that are full of fruit and veggies. The fiber will help you feel more satiated and will help prevent over-eating.
In general, skipping meals slows your metabolism which can cause continued weight gain. When you skip meals, your body goes into survival mode. This can cause unwanted or unnecessary cravings, making you want to eat and snack more than you need to. Skipping meals can also decrease your energy levels, making you feel groggy and tired. Who wants to feel like that during the holidays?
There are a few other problems. Skipping meals can
Lead to low blood sugar. A decrease in blood sugar can cause lightheadedness and headaches.
Make you miss out on nutrients. When you skip meals, you miss out on important nutrients that you need throughout the day.
Use a Smaller Plate
Second, use a smaller plate when you have the option. There are many studies that show the smaller the plate, bowl, cup and even utensils, the less food we eat. Having a smaller plate means you won’t be able to put as much food on your plate. It will help you have more portion control. Don’t worry, if you want more holiday food, you can always go back for seconds. However, many times after finishing our plate we realize we don’t need more.
No one wants to feel like they have to say no to their favorite holiday foods. By using a smaller plate, you can get a little bit of all your favorites without overeating or making yourself sick. Some saying that using a smaller plate will not make you eat less. Perhaps this is true in some cases. But, if you are making a conscious effort to watch your holiday weight gain, this is an easy change to make.
Split Your Plate
Another strategy is to fill half of your plate with nutrient-rich, low-calorie options such as fruit, veggies, and salad. Research shows that eating a salad before your meal actually helps you eat fewer calories in the end.
Here is an example. At Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead and fill half your plate with turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes. Fill the other half with a spinach salad, greens beans, and apples or grapes. This way, you get a full Thanksgiving dinner that contains a lot of nutrient-rich food.
Also, while you’re eating, eat mindfully. Pay attention to and savor every bite. The slower you eat, the less likely you are to overeat. When we eat fast, we don’t get our stomachs enough time to realize we are full. Eating slower helps us enjoy our meal and gives us time to digest!
Lastly, try to be physically active every day, especially after a large meal. Even just 10-15 minutes of physical activity after eating helps improve blood glucose and triglyceride levels and decreases abdominal fat deposition. Taking a walk with your family or friends after eating or playing with your kids or grandchildren can be great ways to stay active. Try to include winter sports into your holiday plans such as snowshoeing, skiing, sledding, and ice-skating.
You should indulge in holiday food. The key is to not go overboard. Portion control, as mentioned above, is the best way to have a taste of holiday treats but still stay healthy. Enjoy this holiday season and the festive foods that come with it!