Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Enjoy the Holidays without Gaining Weight

The holiday season is upon us. Oh how I love the magic of the season, the lights, music, decorations and of course the food! Cookies, candy, cakes and pie, Oh My! It seems everywhere you go there are sweets and tempting treats calling out to you to eat and eat a lot! Christmas has always been a joyous time of year for me growing up in an Italian culture where food is such an important part of life, family and love. I remember as a child the wonderful smells of fresh baked cookies, nut rolls and sweet Italian treats that would waft through the house as my mother would spend days baking and preparing for the family gatherings. Having grown up with a wonderful baker in the family I understand the temptation to eat. As the amount of sweets and cookies pile up so can the weight. Research is now showing that the average weight gain over the holidays is 1-3 pounds. This may not seem like a lot but the problem is that this weight is not being lost after the holidays and over time this 1-3 pounds can add up.

The following are tips for you to be able to enjoy the holidays and not gain weight.

Moderation and Portion Control 
You do not have to avoid eating your favorite foods. Denying yourself a piece of cake or pie will only make you crave it more and ultimately cause binge eating or eating more than you should. Portion control is key to weight control. For example if you decide that you really want to eat a piece of pumpkin pie then make a sacrifice elsewhere in the meal such as eating only a ¼ cup of mashed potatoes or vice versa. Decide what it is that you really want to eat and choose the food that you will eat a smaller portion. An easy tip for portion control, fill one half of the dinner plate with vegetables and the other half with a lean protein and one starch. Also try using a smaller sized plate.

Plan Ahead 
Never go to a party hungry and do not skip meals during the day as this will only cause you to be starving and eat everything in sight. Be sure to eat three healthy meals a day plus small snacks between meals. Include fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Try eating a snack prior to going to a party like a piece of fresh fruit and 1 ounce of low fat cheese or 1 ounce of almonds. The fiber and protein in these foods will help to make you feel full and prevent overeating. Drinking a glass of water prior to eating will also help with the sensation of fullness.

Be Prepared 
Try bringing a lower calorie dish or dessert to a party this will ensure that there will be a healthier option for you to choose. Some ideas would be fresh fruit and a fruit dip such as low fat Greek yogurt, a vegetable platter with a low fat dip, shrimp cocktail or a bruschetta made with tomatoes, olive oil, fresh garlic and basil on top of a small slice of toasted bread. If you are at a party or gathering and it is buffet style scope out the food that is being served and decide what you really want to eat. Avoid standing by the buffet and once you have your food do not go back.

Avoid Drinking too much Alcohol 
Not only will alcohol will cause the body to become dehydrated it also causes lack of control in decision making and lead to overeating. Alcohol contains “empty” calories or in other words a lot of calories and few nutrients that are beneficial for the body. For example, a regular 12 ounce beer contains 155 calories, a 4 ounce glass of wine about 90 calories and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor about 90-100 calories. Most people have more than one drink and these calories can add up quickly. Try drinking club soda or sparkling water. As always water is the best choice. If you choose to have alcohol be sure to drink plenty of water between drinks.

Exercise, Exercise! 
Exercise is a great way to burn calories and manage stress. Do not stop your exercise program if you already have one in place. A lot of people will stop exercising due to their busy schedules over the holidays but you have to make time to exercise. Exercise does not have to be strenuous. Doing any type of activity for 30 minutes a day will help keep off those unwanted pounds. It can be taking a 30 minute brisk walk which can burn up to 80 or more calories depending upon how fast you walk. Try making it a family affair. Instead of watching television go out and take a walk or go bowling. No matter what type of exercise or activity you choose the key is to keep moving.

Get Plenty of Sleep 
Research has shown that sleep deprivation has a direct correlation to weight gain. Lack of sleep causes the body to release increased levels of a hunger hormone called grehlin. As the level of this hormone rises the body craves more and more high fat, high carbohydrate foods. It is important to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

Avoid Stress 
The holidays can be a stressful time for many people. Stress can cause overeating and as the stress level increases we have the desire to eat high fat, high calorie foods. Stress causes a rise in the hormone cortisol which can contribute to weight gain. Ensuring that you follow a healthful diet, get adequate sleep and exercise daily will help you to better manage the holiday stress.

To Summarize: 
You do not have to give up your favorite foods over the holidays. Moderation and portion control are key to preventing weight gain. Plan ahead and be prepared, do not starve yourself or skip meals, include fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains throughout the day, avoid alcohol, drink plenty of water, get adequate sleep and exercise.

Remember what the holidays are about, spending time with family and friends and giving thanks. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone in the Quality Life Services family! 

Cindy Closser, RD, LD, Clinical Dietitian for QLS 

Cindy is a graduate from the University of Cincinnati and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She has been practicing as a Clinical Registered Dietitian for 16 years.

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