Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. This week, nutritionist Sara Wittenberg (pictured) weighs in on holiday weight gain.
This time of year you are not only surrounded by joy and merriment, but food — and lots of it. From gingerbread lattes to eggnog, holiday parties with candy bowls, cookies, cakes, pies, hors d’oeuvres, turkey, ham, and bubbly drinks, the list could go on and on. All of these food and beverages combined with multiple servings may lead to holiday weight gain.
Here is an idea of how holiday munchies add up: 2 chocolate covered strawberries, 3 pigs in a blanket, 1 sugar cookie, several fresh veggies w/ 2 tablespoons of dip, just 2 crackers with 1 ounce of cheese, one 4-ounce glass of eggnog, and one 4-ounce glass of champagne adds up to 1,125 calories; and that’s just the beginning of the night. With the New Year right around the corner, get a jump start on that constant looming resolution to lose weight by avoiding the holiday weight gain. Here are some tips how:
Don’t skip out on exercise. Even if you can only squeeze in 20 minutes to your busy schedule, that is still better than nothing. Try to incorporate activity in other ways too: Park farther from the mall to get more of a walk in, or take the stairs wherever you can.
Never go to a party hungry. This can lead to eating more than you expected or wanted. Eat a small snack with fiber and a bit of protein before hand: for example, apples with low fat string cheese.
Bring a healthy dish to a party. That way you know for sure you have something healthy to nibble on while you socialize.
Avoid food courts while getting your holiday shopping done. This can be a busy stressful place, leading you to make hasty wrong choices. Pack light snacks, such as fresh veggies or air popped popcorn.
Take the focus off food. Plan a holiday event where food is not the star, such as a gift wrapping party. Keep the snacks minimal, plus your hands will be too busy to eat.
Slim up your recipes. Choosing low fat/fat free and lighter calorie versions of ingredients can help cut the calories of a dish.
Plan. If you know you have a holiday event coming up, make sure the rest of your meals leading up to it, and after, are healthy and portion-controlled. Save the treats for the event.
Be mindful of alcohol. Often, the more you drink, the more you eat. And, mixed drinks can pack just as heavy a calorie punch as food. Avoid cocktails made with sugary syrups, juice, cream and regular soda.
Veggies and fruits still ring true here. Opt for munching on fresh versions of these fibrous foods. They can help fill you up and keep your mouth busy and satisfied without consuming lots of calories. Just watch out for those sneaky dense dips, as they can load the calories back on.
Portion control. It’s OK to taste and enjoy the food, but watch out for the seconds, thirds and fourths.
Remember, this time of the year should be about squeezing in time for friends and family and not squeezing into your jeans. By making these healthy choices, you can avoid the holiday weight gain. Share your own tips in the comments.