8 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

Clinical Dietitian
Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 3:19pm

The holidays are an exciting time of year. However, between the parties, stress and baked goods, it’s also a time when people tend to gain weight. Did you know the average American puts on one pound between mid-November and mid-January? That may not sound like much, but year after year, that extra weight can add up and potentially harm your overall health. The good news is that weight gain during the holidays is not inevitable. These tips can help.

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  1. Practice moderation. When the holidays arrive, it can be easy to overdo your portion sizes. Typically, the more food we’re served, the more we eat, even if we feel full or don’t particularly like the food. Use a smaller plate and serve yourself to avoid large portions.
  2. Keep moving. Food isn’t always the enemy; lack of activity can be, too. Sedentary activities, such as sitting on the couch watching sports or movies, are common holiday traditions for many families. Get up and move around! Increase your physical activity slightly over the holidays to make up for the extra calories you are likely to consume. Compare your calories in versus calories out.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. Insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality can take a toll on your metabolism and health. Sleep deprivation not only messes with your mind, but it also makes you feel hungrier. When deprived of sleep, the body produces more ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” which increases your appetite. Aim for the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each evening.
  4. Manage your stress. People who are stressed tend to have high levels of cortisol, and this has been linked to weight gain. There are many things you can do to reduce stress: exercise, meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
  5. Satisfy a craving with a few bites. A slice of pie or glass of eggnog can set you back more than 400 calories. To stay in maintenance mode, have just a few bites of high-calorie foods or choose lower-calorie options.
  6. Keep meals balanced with protein. Holiday meals are typically carbohydrates-based and lack sufficient protein. Add a protein to each meal to promote fullness and weight maintenance. Good sources of protein include lean meats, skinless poultry, seafood, low-fat dairy and some plant foods, such as beans and quinoa.
  7. Focus on fiber. Many common holiday foods lack adequate amounts of fiber. Do your best to incorporate fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds into your meals.
  8. Limit liquid calories. The holidays are a time of year when caloric beverages seem to be unlimited. Between alcohol, soda and other sweetened beverages providing nothing but empty calories, excess intake can lead to weight gain. Alcohol consumption also lowers inhibitions and increases the likelihood that you’ll go back for seconds. Opt instead for water or sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice.