With the festivities of the holiday season upon us, temptations are all around, and making healthy and smart food choices can be challenging. While people often think that they will gain several pounds during this season, truth be told, research shows that we only gain, on average, around a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The greater challenge, however, is losing any weight we may have put on, and keeping it off.
Cultivating healthy habits during the holiday season (with some cheat treats allowed!) which we can take with us into the New Year will help keep us trim well into 2017.
1. Follow the 80-20 rule.
Yes, it is ok to indulge. Just not all the time. When I work with clients looking to lose weight, I generally advise them to follow a healthy eating plan most of the time while allowing them to enjoy an occasional treat meal, drink, or snack. For example, if you are going to a holiday party, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch and allow yourself to indulge (sans guilt) in your favorite holiday treat.
2. Plan in advance (when you can.)
Whenever possible, planning in advance, is a great way to go. If you are going to a favorite restaurant, decide in advance what you are going to order and work your day around that. If you know you want a pasta meal, have a salad instead of a sandwich for lunch. If you have an idea what will be served at a holiday party, you can plan what you will eat. While we may not always know what will be on the menu, often times we have an inkling, and for those occasions, pre planning helps.
3. Be a social butterfly.
Remember why you went to a holiday party in the first place. It probably wasn’t for the food, but rather the good company. Enjoy friends and family, and engage with them. Don’t make food the most important part of the gathering. When you arrive at a party, instead of running toward the buffet table, look around at the company and say hi to those you know and even those you don’t yet know.
4. Eat before you eat.
Rather than save up all your calories for a holiday party, I suggest eating a healthy snack before you go. Filling up with some protein and fiber will help satiate you and keep your hunger pangs at bay. Some of my favorites include a Greek yogurt with berries, hummus and fresh veggies, a bowl of lentil soup, or almond butter with an apple and whole grain crackers.
5. Size does matter.
As I like to say, it is OK to enjoy your favorite foods (just not all at once) and the key to avoid gaining weight during the holiday season is to watch your portion sizes. For a main meal, I love using the visual method―fill half of your plate with veggies and roughly a quarter with protein (fish, chicken, beans, lean meat) and the remaining quarter with a starch (whole grain such as brown rice or quinoa, if possible.) No need to go low carb at your favorite gathering! If you are having an alcoholic beverage, have just one drink (in a normal size glass) and enjoy it with the meal. Want a dessert? Choose just one treat—either your favorite pie or one holiday cookie. And, if your “one” cookie looks oversized, share it with a friend. Get the idea?!
6 Don’t start a diet.
The holiday season is not a time to begin a diet. Rather, think maintenance at this time of year and try keeping your current weight steady. While I find it courageous when a new weight loss client comes to see me during the holiday season, I outline a healthy food plan while also building in some wiggle room for holiday festivities. It is important to set realistic goals during this time of year and not be too hard on yourself.
7. Keep moving.
A great way to keep your weight in check without dieting at this time of year is to stick to a regular exercise routine. Whether it be a morning swim or run, or a weekend yoga class, keep the exercise going. It will help de-stress you while giving you some wiggle room to eat a little more than you usually do.
Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season.