If the words “ho ho ho” bring to mind a delicious snack cake wrapped in foil rather than Jolly Old Saint Nick, you’re not alone. We know what the holidays can do to our waistlines so we’re continually looking for a new, better way to eat nutritiously while the rest of the world enjoys a sugar high — then crashes.
It is rare to get through the holidays without hearing someone complain about the weight they’ve gained, exercise they’ve missed out on, or horrible food choices they made during the season. It does not have to be the case for you, though. There are lots of things you can do to stay on track nutritionally, while still loving every moment of the holidays.
An interesting study offers good news and bad news regarding holiday weight gain. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, reports suggesting that the average American gains 7 to 10 pounds of weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas are hogwash. Several recent studies have shown that the average person gains one pound of weight over the holidays. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that most people don’t ever lose that extra pound. Because the average adult gains one or two pounds per year, it means that a lot of that poundage is picked up during the holiday season.
So, what to do? How can you plan for a holiday season that includes lots of nutritious food to give you energy and leaves you with absolutely no weight gain?
Who among us is not guilty of filling the pantry with goodies during the holiday season? It’s as much a custom as watching It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. It’s fine to have those once-a-year snacks available, but balance it out by having nutritious food around, too. Fill containers in your fridge with fresh fruit to snack on and keep pita chips and pretzels in the cupboard for when you’re craving something salty. Mix it up. When you’re in the mood for something not-so-healthy (but utterly delectable) allow yourself to have a small amount, satisfying your real hunger with healthy alternatives.
LIGHTEN UP ON THE APPETIZERS
Here’s our theory as to why appetizers are always so darn delicious: they are generally full of fat and dense with calories. If you’re hosting or attending a party, focus on the appetizers with the most nutritional value. Shrimp cocktail, veggies with low-fat dip, and fresh fruit are all delicious and give you something to munch on while working the room.
DO THE OLD SWITCHEROO
It’s easy to create the perfect holiday meal while saving calories and fat. Non-fat yogurt or applesauce can be substituted when a recipe calls for oil in baked goods. Light cream cheese, low-fat milk, and chicken stock all add flavor to a dish without cramming it full of fat and calories. Make it a game of figuring out ways to make old, traditional dishes with healthier ingredients.
We hear it so often and it’s such boring advice that we’re hesitant to include it, but the truth is, we’re often really dehydrated when we may feel as though we’re hungry. We run around trying to get to this holiday program and picking up that relative at the airport, and frankly, we forget to drink enough water to satisfying our bodies. When it comes to water, our bodies rebel in any number of ways when we’re lacking in H2O. We become tired, cranky, and begin to believe that the only thing that’s going to make us feel better is reaching for a snack. It’s not the snack our bodies crave; it’s water.
One way to prevent stress-related eating is to find ways during the holiday season to relax and be at peace with your body. Take a long walk with the kids or a friend, put a few minutes aside each day to simply sit quietly, or schedule a relaxing treatment with us — anything that allows you to unwind is especially welcome this time of year.