10 Ways to Stay on Track During the Holidays

During the holidays, it’s easy to put on a few extra pounds, but you can avoid that by following these 10 tips for staying on track during the holidays.

1. Be physically active every day.

Often, people’s busy holiday schedules (or lack of structured schedules) bump them off their exercise routines. Physical activity, especially aerobic activities (like brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, roller blading, and swimming) can help relieve stress, regulate appetite, and burn up extra calories from holiday eating.

2. Eat a light snack before going to holiday parties.

It is not a good idea to arrive at a party famished. Not only are you more likely to overeat, but you are also less likely to resist the temptation of eating the higher fat and higher calorie foods. Try eating a piece of fruit, a small carton of yogurt, or a string cheese before you go.

3. Make a plan.

There are things you should think about when planning ahead:

  • Where will you be?
  • Who will you with?
  • What foods will be available?
  • What foods are really special to you (that you really want to eat) vs. those that you could probably do without?
  • What are your personal triggers to overeat and how can you minimize them?

Once you’ve thought about all of these things, make a plan of action. It’s much easier to deal with a difficult social eating situation if you’ve already planned for it.

4. Take steps to avoid recreational eating.

While some foods are more calorie-dense than others, no food will make you gain weight unless you eat too much of it. At parties and holiday dinners, we tend to eat (or keep eating) beyond our body’s physical hunger simply because food is there, and eating is a “social thing.” To avoid recreational eating, consciously make one plate of the foods you really want. Eat it slowly, enjoying and savoring every tasty bite. Then, when you’re done, pop a mint or stick of gum in your mouth, get a tall glass of water and sip on it throughout the night, or position yourself away from the buffet table or food trays to keep yourself from overeating.

5. Reduce the fat in holiday recipes.

There are plenty of low fat and low-calorie substitutes that are amazingly tasty. Try using applesauce in place of oil in your favorite holiday breads; use egg substitutes in place of whole eggs; try plain nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream. Magazines and the Internet are full of reduced calorie and reduced fat holiday recipes. Give them a try and share your cooking creations with friends and family.

6. Choose your beverages wisely.

Alcohol is high in calories. Liquors, sweet wines and sweet mixed drinks contain 150-450 calories per glass. By contrast, water and diet sodas are calorie-free. If you choose to drink, select light wines and beers, and use non-alcoholic mixers such as water and diet soda. Limit your intake to 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per occasion. And watch out for calories in soda, fruit punch, and eggnog as well.

7. Enjoy good friends and family.

Although food can be a big part of the season, it doesn’t have to be the focus. Holidays are a time to reunite with good friends and family, to share laughter and cheer, to celebrate and to give thanks. Focus more on these other holiday pleasures, in addition to the tastes of holiday foods. The important thing to remember is balance and moderation – it’s OK to eat too much once in a while. Just relax, enjoy the holidays, and remember what the season is all about.

8. Maintain perspective.

Overeating one day won’t make or break your eating plan. And it certainly won’t make you gain weight! It takes days and days of overeating to gain weight. If you over-indulge at a holiday meal, put it behind you. Return to your usual eating plan the next day without guilt or despair.

9. Trim the Calories of Holiday Foods

  • Reduce the portion of all the holiday foods you eat – try to have a small taste of everything rather than filling up on all foods. This will reduce the number of calories you eat, and it will prevent you from feeling uncomfortable around the waistline at the end of the meal, too!
  • Limit yourself to one helping by planning what you will eat before you sit down to a meal. This can help you resist the temptation to have a second helping.
  • Trim the skin and excess fat from your serving of turkey.
  • Try to avoid the foods you don’t really care for – this way you can avoid consuming these calories and reduce your total intake. For example, if you don’t really like to have cranberry sauce with your turkey, don’t even put it on your plate.

10. Know your triggers.

If you know that you cannot have just one piece of Lindt chocolate, avoid eating them as much as you can. If you decide to have one, make a deal with yourself that you will have one at a particular time of day (end of the day may be best for you if it is at the office, because then you are out of the office shortly afterward). Once you decide that you will have a candy, make it a deliberate event where your complete attention is on eating. This will allow you to savor the chocolate and prevent you from eating food while being distracted (while you work or watch TV), which often leads to eating more than you want or need.