The festivities surrounding the holiday season tend to have an unwanted lingering consequence: a larger waistline.
The weight gained during the holiday season may be small, but over the years it adds up and can lead to bigger health issues that create a financial hardship.
“People only gain about an average of a pound, but they keep that pound from year to year,” says Rachel Berman, director of nutrition for CalorieCount.com. “People lessen their inhibition and tend to go over board when faced with food they avoid most of the year.”
While avoidance is the best way to keep the pounds off, it’s hard to turn down home-made cookies, fancy cocktails and dinner party invites. Here are five tips to help make smart decisions on what to indulge in this eating season.
One of the oldest traditions during the holiday season is sharing cups of eggnog. While it may be a classic drink at home with the family and at parties, eggnog can be devastating to your diet. According to Dr. Brunilda Nazario, WebMD’s medical editor, one cup of eggnog has at least 400 calories.
With that said, simply opting for a mixed drink or a cream-based alcoholic beverage may not be better. “Just a couple of cocktails, especially with mixed ones you’re taking in 1,000 calories,” she says.
Nazario recommends sticking with drinks mixed with tonics, low-sugar versions of juices or spritzers with wine. Add glasses of water in between drinks, it will prevent dehydration and fill you up.
Buffets with an assortment of foods tend to be present at larger parties because they are more economical and budget friendly, but they can be unfriendly to your waistline.
Experts say it’s fine to dabble at the buffet, but take a small taste of each item and don’t go back for second or third servings.
Starving yourself throughout the day to “store” calories for the holiday party that night will backfire. “Your metabolism slows down if you are going more than four or five hours without eating,” says Berman. “If you know you have a big party that night, eat a sensible breakfast and lunch and a snack before going.” Not only will that ensure your metabolism is working properly, but it will limit your food intake because you won’t be completely ravenous.
With many holiday festivities, appetizers are served up before the meal, but try to avoid them. These foods often don’t prevent people from chowing down on the second and third courses. To limit the calorie intake, Nazario at WebMD says people should skip the fattening foods like pigs-in-a-blanket and mozzarella sticks and go and consume raw vegetables, salads and deli meats. Avoiding salad dressing, which tend to be loaded with calories, can also be a quick way to keep off unwanted weight.
Berman says to skip the pretzels and instead snack on something that will be more hunger satisfying like nuts. While they tend to be more fattening, nuts are also packed with protein which fills you up faster than carbohydrates. “With low-density foods, you get more bang for your calorie bucks,” says Berman. “Low calorie, high fiber foods will fill you up and won’t break the calorie bank.”
When filling your plate at holiday dinners, aim to fill your plate with a serving of lean protein like chicken or turkey, vegetables (preferably the ones not cooked in butter) and some kind of starch. Berman says to stay away from things like mashed potatoes or cream of anything since those foods are going to have a high calorie and fat counts.
“Once you fill your plate, try to pay attention to your hunger cues,” says Berman, noting that people get distracted and go up more when they really aren’t hungry. If you do make another round at the buffet, she says to stick to lean proteins and veggies.
Desserts are in abundance during the holiday season. You may not think a cookie here or a brownie there won’t make a difference, but those calories add up. You don’t have to avoid desserts altogether, but make sure to have small servings.
Nazario at WebMD says to avoid the crust, skip the whip cream and other toppings that pack on the pounds. “I’m not saying you can’t have it, but be conscious of what you are putting into your system.”