Americans typically gain three to five pounds or more during the winter holiday season. From the feasts of Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas, right through to the last drop of champagne at New Year's, healthy, sensible eating habits are forgotten. Exercise routines are often disrupted with friends and family visits and travel. Here are 10 tips on how to avoid weight gain during the holidays:
1. Eat before the party. Grab a 100- to 200-calorie snack containing carbohydrates, protein, and a little bit of fat—a low-fat Greek yogurt with fruit slices or a banana smeared with peanut butter. This will take the edge off your hunger so you won't be as likely to grab everything that smells and looks good.
2. Have one truly sinful treat. You can indulge and maintain your weight if you stick with a small portion of fudge, eggnog, pigs-in-a-blanket. Then, stick with nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods like vegetable slices for the rest of the night. Pick something that's really worth the calories and taste the food savoring every bite.
3. Account for what you eat. Keeping a food diary is the single best way to keep the pounds off. At the very least, do a mental rundown once or twice a day. Cocktail parties, in particular, lend themselves to mindless eating.
4. Stop tasting the cake batter and cookie dough! Bake to your heart's desire, but avoid licking the spoon. Those little tastings can cost you 300 calories a pop.
5. Ban the pretty dishes of cookies from your counter. I know it's the holidays and they look so festive, but bring them out only for dessert or freeze them for future guests.
6. Avoid getting tipsy. Besides the calories in those glasses of bubbly, alcohol lowers your inhibitions. Then you're more likely to throw caution to the wind (along with your mental food diary).
7. Stay active, but don't use it as an excuse to eat double portions. The "I ran an extra mile so I can have an extra piece of pie" reasoning often results in added weight gain. That's because most of us overestimate how many calories we burn and underestimate how many we consume. Getting in your regular workouts will help compensate for those small holiday nibbles you just can't pass up.
8. Don't beat yourself up over one overindulgence. It's nearly impossible to put on a substantial amount of weight from, let’s say, the turkey dinner with all the trimmings. After all, you'd have to consume an extra 3,500 calories to put on a pound. (If your scale edges up a pound or two after a meal, it's likely due to water retention from eating extra carbohydrates or sodium.) So if you know you overdid it on Thanksgiving, cut yourself some slack and don't use it an excuse to throw in the towel.
9. Don't skip meals. Eating every four hours throughout the day will keep your metabolism revved up, Contrary to what you might think, skipping meals doesn't save you calories over the long haul because by the time you sit down to eat, you're ravenous, which makes binging hard to avoid. What's worse, your body, in starvation mode, may more readily store the calories you consume as fat instead of burning them.
10. Gab and gab some more. Focusing on socializing with family and friends will help keep you away from the buffet table. While food is certainly a great sideshow during this time of year, the main event should be celebrating relationships.