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Healthy Holidays

Prevent holiday weight gain and still enjoy the holiday season

Written by Ashley Larson, MS, RD, LMNT, Bryan LifePointe dietitian

Do you ever start stressing out about weight gain and being unhealthy when December hits? Worry about eating too many calories at Christmas parties? Not getting in your exercise during this busy time? These are all valid concerns and stresses, however they do not have to be! With just a little planning and preparation, you can prevent holiday weight gain and still enjoy the holiday season!

Don’t plan your gatherings around food!

It seems that every event we plan is based on the food that will be available, especially around the holidays! Don’t let them be! No one says there has to be a huge meal at every get-together or drinks and appetizers at an evening work party.

  • Plan your events around an activity (bowling, a movie, sporting event, holiday race, etc.) and then offer a light, healthier snack after it.
  • Enjoy your company and reflect more on the meaning of the celebration and holiday, and less on the food on the table.

Cut the fat, sugar and salt!

You often can reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt without sacrificing flavor in healthy recipes. Use these general guidelines:

  • Fat. For baked goods, use half the butter, shortening or oil and replace the other half with unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana or prune puree.
  • Sugar. Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half. Instead, add spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, or flavorings such as vanilla extract or almond flavoring to boost sweetness.
  • Salt. For most main dishes, salads, soups and other foods, you can reduce the salt by half or even eliminate it without diminishing the taste.

Control Portion Sizes!

No matter how much you reduce, switch or omit ingredients, some recipes may still be high in sugar, fat or salt. You can help your diet by cutting back on the portion size instead.

  • Slow down. Eat your meals slowly to give your body a chance to register the fact that you’re filling up. Put your fork down between bites if necessary.
  • Check portion sizes. Many portions today are so large that you may not realize what a true portion or serving is. Train yourself by using smaller plates, spoons and cups.
  • Plan ahead when eating out. It’s easy to go overboard when eating out. Take precautions such as splitting a dish, skipping the bread basket or asking for a to-go box and packing up half your meal right away.

Make time to exercise!

Don’t skip your workout because you are getting busy or your schedule is different.

This is when you need it the most!

  • Find a fun holiday 5K or mile race to participate in.
  • Encourage a family walk before or after meals.
  • Keep on your normal exercise routine as much as possible. If able, use this time to try new classes at the gym or try new facilities if traveling.

Do not extend the holiday!

Holidays are ONE day, not one-two weeks! Enjoy the holiday and splurge a little on that day, but re-focus the next day and get back on track. This is a wonderful time of the year – one of my favorites, personally – but don’t get caught up in all the holiday goodies (Christmas cookies, pies, candy) that can reverse the number on the scale and all the hard work you put in over the last year. Eat sensibly, stay in control of your food and emotions, and enjoy your family and friends over the next few weeks! Have a wonderful holiday season and stay healthy!

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