Mandy Tennyson from the Employee Nutrition Clinic and Adam Carter from the UAMS Fitness Center offer some tips for enjoying the holidays — and avoiding packing on the pounds.
On average, Americans gain approximately one to two pounds during the holiday season. While this weight gain isn’t dramatic, research shows it tends to stick and accumulate over the years. Luckily, those pounds can be avoided through mindful eating and a few simple strategies.
In preparation for a big holiday party or feast, do not skip meals throughout the day as this may result in overeating. It is especially important to have breakfast, as research shows that those who eat this important morning meal tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Include lots of fiber in your diet by eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains. High-fiber foods are high in volume and will satisfy hunger, but are lower in calories.
Holiday meals tend to be large, buffet-style and include second and third helpings. While one might not eat an entire cake, a common mistake is eating large portions of foods that are perceived as healthy. It’s important to include nutrient-rich foods in your diet, but also remember that these foods have calories as well and should be eaten in moderation. Using this approach at the holiday dinner table will allow you to maintain a healthful eating plan — one that can also include dessert.
There are many strategies to help you avoid overeating. Using a smaller plate, for instance, allows you to put less food on your plate and encourages proper portion sizes. Also, start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. Eating a salad before your meal can help you eat fewer calories overall. Eat slowly and savor every bite, and before you go back for seconds wait 10 minutes to see if you really are still hungry.
Since you will likely be eating your calories from delicious food, try to only drink water or other non-caloric beverages.
Finally, at some point in the day, get some physical activity! This is a great time to go for a walk and catch up with family members, or play catch or a game of basketball with the kids. The holidays are all about traditions-maybe start a new tradition and find a local 5K to do together!
Party Survival Guide
How to Survive: At the party
- Do not stand near the food; if it is out of sight, it is out of mind. People eat more in social settings than when at home, so keep your distance from the food, and keep your figure.
- Minimize the amount of time spent talking with people that are eating. Hungry see. Hungry eat. Hungry be in misery.
- Have one drink for toasting and only sip it during the toasting. Most people drink far more calories than they realize. A serving of light beer averages 130 calories, wine 150 calories, and hard liquor 120 calories.
- Drink water when not toasting.
- If dinner is served focus on meat, fruit and vegetables.
How to Survive: After the party
- Drink 16 oz. of water before going to bed. This will help flush out the junk in the morning. It may also help prevent or minimize a hangover if too much alcohol was consumed at the party.
- Get a full eight to nine hours of sleep, especially if you partied too hard.
In the end, the best way not to be overly concerned about holiday weight gain is to be more concerned about being healthy the other 46 weeks in the year rather than obsessing about what happens during the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.