6 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Let’s start with the good news. Despite rumors to the contrary, the average adult does not gain five to ten pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In truth, average holiday weight gain is only one or two pounds. However, it is true that people who are already overweight tend to gain a bit more over the holidays. And even one to two pounds a year can add up over time.

6 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
Aaron Burden

Some of the reasons we tend to gain weight during the holidays are obvious: all the cookies, cheese logs, egg nog, parties and family feasts. Others may be a little less evident. Colder weather often puts a chill on outdoor physical activity, especially if walking, biking, gardening or golfing is your exercise of choice. At the same time, the shorter, darker days of winter can lead to lower serotonin levels in the brain, which in turn can trigger cravings for sweet and starchy foods. It really is a perfect storm. Here are a six tips for warding off those unwelcome pounds without taking any of the spirit out of the season.

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain at Home

Boost Your Serotonin

Instead of turning to starchy comfort foods, take advantage of calorie-free ways to boost serotonin levels and buoy your mood. A brief burst of aerobic exercise, spending time in sunlight, doing something nice for someone, or even just smiling at a stranger can trigger serotonin release and the good feelings that come with it. Repeat as needed.

Keep Moving

If cooler weather has stifled your outdoor recreation, find a way to move the fun indoors. Join a gym, yoga studio or indoor tennis league, or get a group together to walk at a nearby mall several times a week. You can even dial up a fitness video on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Staying active through the winter can help fend off extra winter weight.

Make Healthy Choices

Just as we tend to crave lighter foods like salads in the summer, we often turn to heartier fare in the winter. But hearty doesn’t have to mean heavy. Choose pureed vegetable soups instead of cream-thickened bisques. Have a veggie-filled quesadilla instead of greasy grilled cheese. Hold the bacon and sour cream, and top your baked potato with broccoli or salsa instead. Consider substituting a second vegetable for your potatoes, rice or bread. Replace your summertime fruit plate with a baked apple or poached pears instead of pie.

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain at Parties

Beware the Smorgasbord Effect

Buffets can seduce you into eating far more than you would otherwise. Just “a little taste” of everything can easily add up to two or three meals worth of food. Check out all the options before you pick up your plate, and identify the things that appeal to you most.

Fill Up On Fancy Protein

Don’t waste your calories on pigs-in-blankets or the ubiquitous cheese ball. Go for the shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell and sliced roast beef. Not only are these a special treat, they’re also relatively low in calories and packed with protein to satisfy your hunger.

Keep an Eye On Alcohol

With all the parties and gatherings, it’s not surprising that we tend to drink more at this time of year. Extra calories from alcohol can be a significant player in holiday weight gain. As you make the party rounds this year, try to limit your alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per hour, and ten drinks per week. Choose drinks that are lower in calories and alcohol, such as light beer, wine and wine spritzers, and non-alcoholic choices such as sparkling water.

About the Writer

Monica Reinagel

Monica is a board-certified, licensed nutritionist and professionally trained chef. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, CBS News and Morning Edition, as well as leading newspapers, magazines and websites. She’s the author of six books, including Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet, and creator of the Nutrition Diva podcast (one of iTunes’ most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts).

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