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December 8, 2010

Avoiding holiday weight gain at social gatherings

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 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.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition


Thanks for the tips.  I also try to add in some activity when ever I can, even if its marching in place during a commercial break.  And being mindful of what you are eating.  Check out this fantastic blog for more tips on weight loss:

I always l love it when I see fresh veggies and dip - it's one of my favorites in a buffet! I always love how you recommend bringing a healthy dish! It's polite and beneficial! I also make sure (especially at the holidays) to continue to take my Vidazorb probiotic too. They can really help with my digestion and weight and they are so healthy. I don't believe in quick fixes or magic bullets for health and weight so I will also be exercising as much as I can!

great list of tips, thank you! i'm always pushing people be the health food pusher (instead of the junk food pusher) by taking a healthy dish to parties - i've never brought home leftovers of a healthy dish!

walking by the food court is a great reminder as well. its so easy to be on a mission and march right up for some easy ridiculous combo when you are in the middle of the shopping frenzy.


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About Exercists
Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
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Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
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Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
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Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
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