Now that we’ve survived our Thanksgiving feasts with family and friends, many of us still feel as stuffed as the turkeys we devoured. That’s because holiday eating can result in an extra pound or two every year, according to the National Institutes of Health – a holiday weight gain that many people never lose. Over a lifetime, this extra weight can really add up, and contribute to being overweight or experiencing obesity later in life.
Of course, no one wants to be on a strict diet during the holidays. We want to enjoy the bounty of traditional foods and holiday treats that grace our tables – and it’s tempting to fall into unhealthy eating patterns during this festive time. So, how can you enjoy the holidays without gaining weight? Fortunately, it’s not that hard – it just takes a little planning. Use the tips below to help make your holiday meals light and healthy:
- Eat a healthy meal or snack before leaving home. This will reduce the risk of overeating at the party.
- Bring your own. When going to parties, bring your own healthy dish or share a recipe with your host.
- Stand more than arm’s length away from those bowls of munchies while you’re mingling with family and friends. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to take a few chips and nuts every few seconds (and they can really add up!).
- Make smart choices. If you’re at a buffet, load your plate with the healthiest options, such as carrot and celery sticks, shrimp cocktail, fresh fruit and baked fish or chicken.
- Watch your portions. Since it’s so hard to deprive yourself of all the delicious holiday foods, experts say don’t even try. The secret to weight maintenance is portion control. A little bit of stuffing or potatoes is fine, as long as you try to fill up on skinless turkey, vegetables and salad.
- Treat yourself. You can try all those sinful desserts, chocolate or sweets without guilt, as long as you limit yourself to small tastes.
- Drink lots of water. Your brain often confuses hunger for thirst. To avoid unnecessary added calories, drink eight 4 oz. glasses of water daily (as long as you are not on a fluid restricted diet by your healthcare provider).
- Moderate your alcohol intake. It’s easy to forget that alcohol has calories, and lots of them. Try and control the amount of alcoholic drinks you consume over the holidays (and don’t drink at all if you’re driving!). Don’t forget that there are plenty of light beers and lower-calorie wines available, so choose the healthier versions whenever possible – or BYOB.
Remember, when it comes to healthy eating during the holiday season, moderation is key. A little common sense is all you really need to enjoy even the most festive holiday spread. And if you want to start the new year in the best health possible, schedule an appointment to discuss your plan with your physician.
Dr. Julie Patel-Pannullo specializes in Internal Medicine for AdvantageCare Physicians (ACP), one of New York’s largest physician-led multi-specialty practices and partner of EmblemHealth. ACP serves half a million patients in 37 locations throughout New York City and Long Island.