Archived Story

Holiday weight gain isn’t inevitable

Published 3:59pm Sunday, December 5, 2010

The holiday season is a time for festive gatherings with family and friends.

It’s also the time of year when we see tempting treats everywhere we turn.

“Weight gained during the holidays often comes from eating foods that are high in sugar and fat,” says Joan Daniels, R.D., a dietitian at the University of Michigan. “The good news is that you can still enjoy these special occasions as long as you use a bit of restraint and keep yourself from indulging too much.”

Daniels and fellow Cancer Center dietitian Nancy Burke, R.D., offer the following tips to help you enjoy the holiday season without packing on the pounds.

• Don’t go hungry to a holiday event. Eat a snack or light meal before you leave. Foods high in protein, like cottage cheese, nuts or chicken, help you eat less later. Fasting ahead of time, leaving room for a big meal or planning extra trips to the buffet table often leads to overeating.

• Eat smaller portions of food. This is especially important at a buffet, where you may want to try everything. Instead, choose the items you want to try the most, and eat a small portion of each.

• Pace, don’t race. Many times, people eat so fast that their stomachs don’t have enough time to register that they’re full. Eat slowly, savoring each bite and enjoying the taste of the food; chances are you will eat less and not overeat.

• Limit fast food. Don’t let a hectic holiday schedule force you to rely on eating fast food often. Prepare and freeze quick, healthy meals ahead of time to stay out of the fast-food trap.

• Offer to bring a low-calorie dish to holiday parties. Your host will appreciate it, and you’ll know that at least one healthy item will be on hand.

• Be realistic. Don’t try to diet during the holidays. Set a goal to maintain your present weight.

• Watch what you drink during the holidays. Regular eggnogs and other drinks made with syrups contain a high amount of calories. Try flavored, calorie-free waters, sparkling apple or grape juice, low-sodium vegetable juices or hot cider instead. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

• Get physical. Look for ways to incorporate some daily physical activity during the holidays. Enjoy a brisk walk, either outside or at an indoor mall. Exercise also can be a huge stress reliever.

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