Food for the Holidays

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on December 1, 2003 · 0 comments

Maintaining your weight during the holidays isn’t just a great achievement—it’s a realistic goal.

Short of heading for a deserted island between Christmas and New Years, what’s the game plan for staying on a diet during the holidays? The game plan never changes. That’s why it works. Any time, in any place you face food, there is a way to negotiate an option.

A recent study by the Medical University of South Carolina and the National Institutes of Health showed that the typical holiday weight gain was little more than a pound, far less than expected. The researchers concluded that the 5-plus pounds people expect to gain is a myth.

But watch out–research indicates trends, not specifics, so if you use the holidays as an excuse, you could be the 5-pound exception rather than the one-pound rule. Plus, the researchers noted that even a small holiday weight gain could become a problem if it wasn’t lost. If it accumulated year after year, it would be 10 pounds in a decade, enough to account for “middle-age spread.”

The holidays are tough. You may not lose as rapidly during them but you most definitely shouldn’t gain. Here’s how to avoid it:

If you host the party:

  • Serve some lower-calorie choices along with traditional dishes.
  • Modify traditional recipes so they have fewer calories.
  • Chew gum or plan a good-for-you nibble while you cook or bake.
  • Give calories away — send your guests home with goody bags.

If you’re a guest:

  • Have a piece of fruit to before you go out, to blunt your appetite.
  • If you’re looking forward to a certain holiday food, plan around it.
  • Eat lighter before the party or exercise more.
  • Alternate drinks. Have one alcoholic or calorie-dense drink, like eggnog, followed by two no-calorie drinks like diet soda or sparkling water with a twist.
  • Dilute alcohol for more fluid and fewer calories per serving.
  • Don’t stand near the food and bar.
  • Keep a beverage in one hand. It will be hard to hold a plate and eat with the other.
  • Eat fewer fried and cheesy hors d’oeuvres. Enjoy shrimp cocktail and fruits and veggies.
  • Eat light at the meals before a party–but don’t fast, or you’ll feast.
  • Exercise more the day before and after a holiday event.
  • Survey the whole buffet table once, than get on line and be choosy.
  • Want pie for dessert? Eat the filling, leave the calorie-dense crust. Pumpkin pie is such a healthy choice it can count toward your 5-a-day fruits and veggies.
  • Enjoy every meal, just don’t super-size it.
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