Lindsay Nelson, RD, LD
6 Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season
Updated: Dec 8, 2018
One question I get asked frequently this time of year is how to not derail your diet during the time from Halloween through the New Year. Many people are fearful of gaining excessive weight during the holiday season; but in reality, the average weight gain is close to one pound. This may not seem like a lot, but this extra weight is not normally lost. So after 20 years of indulgent holidays, a person may be 20 pounds heavier than they would be had they maintained their weight during the holidays. Weight is only one indicator of health but normally when someone gains weight during the holidays, it’s due to indulgent eating which also causes extra inflammation and elevated blood glucose. This is concerning, but we also want to enjoy the holiday season without being fearful of the food around us! Here are some tips on how to maintain your health through the holiday season.
(1) Don’t be on a Diet
Say what? Most dietitians agree that short-term diets don’t improve long-term health. I’m talking about diets that have an end date (i.e.: “I’m going on a low-carb diet for 30 days so I can drop 10 pounds before my vacation.”) Choose a way of eating that fits your lifestyle long-term AND benefits your health. When you live a healthy lifestyle 365 days a year, the holiday season isn’t as difficult because you’ve already made behavior changes that you maintain year-round.
(2) Eat a snack before a holiday party
If you’re going to an event where you know there won’t be many nutritious options, eat a small snack before you go so you aren’t ravenous and turn into the Cookie Monster when you arrive. Eat some protein with a fresh fruit or vegetable. Examples: natural beef jerky with an apple, celery and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, etc.
(3) Eat Your Veggies First
Better yet, be the person who brings the veggies to the party! I always recommend half a plate of veggies at every meal and this doesn’t change during the holidays. I’m always the person who brings a veggie tray or some roasted veggies to holiday gatherings so that I can ensure there will be some nutritious options. Eating your veggies first will help you to fill up on nutrient and fiber-packed foods that lead to satiety before moving onto the dessert table.
(4) Eat some pie and don’t feel guilty about it
When practicing mindful eating, you can have a small piece of pie, enjoy it, feel satisfied, and not feel guilty about it. When “dieting” you see the pie, you want the pie, you eat the pie, feel bad about it, and then eat two more pieces because you think you’ve already blown your diet for the day. Mindful and intuitive eating is a whole other topic (stay tuned for another blog post on this). To learn more about mindful eating, click here.
(5) Get 8 hours of sleep
Getting good quality sleep on a nightly basis is the best thing you can do for your health. It also helps tremendously with sugar cravings. When you’re tired, your body naturally craves sugar and processed carbs for quick energy. Staying up late to watch your latest Netflix obsession may seem enticing at the time, but go to bed by 10 p.m. every night and see what a difference it makes on your energy level and junk food cravings.
This may seem obvious, but getting exercise and staying active is extremely important in maintaining a healthy body weight and for overall health, especially during the holidays. Many of my patients say their exercise decreases during the winter months due to weather, but as long as the sidewalks aren’t icy and it’s not raining, my family and I still bundle up and go for walks in the winter. We all feel better when we get outside and move! If you aren’t medically able to get outside and go for walks, do whatever activity you can like using light weights and exercise bands, chair yoga, anything that challenges you and gets your body moving.
Try these six tips this holiday season and come into the New Year feeling like you’ve already got a head start on your resolutions. Happy holidays!