Healthy Holiday Eating

Food is everywhere during the holiday season, making it tough to stick to your healthful eating and exercise habits. However, with a little attention, you can make it through the holidays without losing track of your healthy lifestyle.

Is it true that the average person gains 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day?
People often do gain weight during the holidays, but how much weight? In 2000, a study of 195 adults showed an average holiday weight gain of between .75 pounds (lb) and 1 lb. However, 14% of those studied gained 5 lb or more. In this study, those who were overweight or obese gained more holiday pounds than those who were normal weight. According to the study, while most people gain less than 1 lb during the holidays, the holiday weight gain is one reason that your weight creeps up from year to year.

Woman Standing on Scale

What can I do to prevent gaining weight over the holidays?
Are you dreading the holiday season because you think you will gain back all of the weight you have lost in the last 6 months? The best advice is to change your mind-set. Do not expect to lose weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Instead, focus on not gaining weight. For success, keep a regular exercise pattern and healthy diet during this time. After all, the fine food of the holiday is one of the pleasures of the season.

Allow yourself to splurge on foods that make your holiday season meaningful. Enjoy your favorites in small amounts. Try to cut back in other ways, and keep your exercise schedule on track.

What can I do to stay active when I am traveling and cannot get to my gym?
Exercising during the hectic and sometimes stressful holiday season can help you maintain your weight and sanity. If you are a true “gym rat,” most gyms will allow you to visit as a guest, although sometimes at a hefty fee! Walking, running, or stair-climbing are easy when you are traveling—you can do these activities almost anywhere. For resistance training, check your sporting goods store or online for rubber resistance bands (They are only about $10 and work really well.  I also posted several tips for quick work outs you can do anywhere – look for them!). They slip easily into a travel bag and are lightweight—use them to strengthen and tone almost any body part.

Danskin Toning Band (2) (570x428)

You may need to adjust your expectations for holiday exercising. Try to stay flexible. Know that you might miss out on some workouts. Sneak in exercise whenever you can by taking a walk after a large meal, for example. Make sure to get back to your regular exercise routine when you return home.

How can I stay on track and not overeat at holiday functions?
You can keep your calorie intake under control in many ways. Try these tips and see which ones work best for you:

  • Survey the entire table before you take any food. Decide what foods are worth eating and which you can ignore, and then stick to that decision. Why waste calories on foods that do not bring you pleasure?
  • Eat a snack before you leave home. If you arrive at a party starving, you are more likely to eat too much.
  • Eat your calories instead of drinking them. Stick to lower calorie or calorie-free drinks (diet sodas, water, lite beer, or a wine spritzer), instead of punches, eggnog, and mixed drinks that can have up to 500 calories/cup.
  • Sip a large glass of water between every alcoholic drink, nonalcoholic punch, or eggnog. This will help keep you hydrated, and you will drink fewer calories by the end of the night.

Woman Drinking Glass of Water

  • When you are hosting, make sure the menu includes lower-calorie foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. When you are a guest, bring along a lower-calorie dish to share.
grinch kabobs



Layer mini marshmallow, strawberry, banana slice, and a grape on a small stick and you get Grinch Kabobs!

  • Try not to hang out near the food. Find a comfortable spot across the room, and focus on people instead of eating.
  • Watch your portion sizes. Do not cover your plate completely with food. When it comes to holiday sweets and alcoholic beverages, less is better.
  • Drop out of the “clean plate club.” Leave a few bites behind every time you eat, especially if you are eating something you do not really care for.
  • Enjoy your favorite holiday treats, but take a small portion, eat slowly, and savor the taste and texture of the wonderful foods of the season.
  • Visit these Web sites for free reduced-calorie and reduced-fat recipes: