Friday, November 26, 2010

10 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Throughout history, times of celebration have been synonymous with bounty. For those who had little, there was always something on the table to be thankful for, and it was not a time for rationing or showing restraint. Today, the holidays are no different -- the problem is that we are! Times have changed, and for many people, holiday indulgence turns into gluttony; bounty is all around in the form of appetizers, alcohol, main dishes and desserts and we just cant resist - nor should we entirely. The funny thing is that most people don't want to gain weight over the holidays, but holding back is very difficult. In fact, the average holiday meal clocks in at around 3,000 calories -- that's more than most people need in a day, never mind in one single meal!

Not to worry, we're here to help you moderate the effects of the holidays on your health. Just follow these 10 tips and you'll be in far better shape than if you just threw in the towel and let loose on the buffet table (proverbial or otherwise).

1. Plan Ahead. This point is key. You need to know what you're getting in to in regards to holiday dinners and events so that you can ration your calories and meals accordingly. But following a plan does not mean that you should skip meals. You've heard it before and we'll say it again: always eat breakfast. The key here is to keep your metabolism revved up and working all day long, but this also means that the rest of your meals can't be super-sized. Eat small, regular meals and healthy snacks during the day to help avoid overeating at holiday parties.

2. Drink moderately. Note that we're not suggesting you abstain from enjoying a drink or two, but realize that alcohol and other sugary beverages are loaded with calories that you won't even notice you're drinking. To make matters worse, alcohol makes you hungrier, so all this does is make you eat even more! Try alternating each drink with a glass of water.

3. Don't deny yourself. Have a small taste of the things you really enjoy, but the key word is taste. If you know you'll want a bit more of something you love, have less of something else! There's no point on filling up on things you don't really want just for the sake of it. And if you happen to overindulge at one meal, don't kick yourself over it - just get back on track with your next meal.

4. Make smart swaps - Substitute Greek or strained yogurt for cream, sour cream and mayonnaise, and substitute herbs and spices for salt and fats. You can also add strained applesauce or pumpkin puree instead of butter or cooking oil when baking.

5. Eat smaller portions or use a smaller plate. A smaller plate will limit the amount of food you can load on, creates more work for you in terms of going back for more, and also makes people notice when you dig in for seconds and thirds - which might just stop you. When it comes to large portions, try sharing them. This works well with dessert. You can also avoid loading up on dressings and side dishes which are typically high in calories. Trim the fat from your meat and use less gravy and dressings (or choose low-fat ones).

6. Prepare Smaller Portions. Believe it or not, not everyone is interested in tasting all 12 of your appetizers. You might be surprised at how well received a simpler, smaller dinner will be in between all the others.

7. Pace, don't race. Eat your food slowly. The point is to really enjoy and taste your food. Really savour each bite. If you eat too fast your stomach won't have time to register that it is full and you'll have gone way over what's necessary by the time you call it quits.

8. Out of sight, out of mind. And out of reach! Be sure to avoid loitering in the same room as the food because if you can see or smell it, you're going to keep thinking about it, and your chances of going back for more increase exponentially! A better strategy? Focus your attention on the company, rather than the buffet or the bar.

9. If you must snack, choose raw vegetables, low fat dips and salsa.

And lastly,

10. Make sure you get regular exercise and lots of sleep throughout the holidays. The only way to balance those calories in and maintain your weight is to burn them off! Exercise is also a great way to blow off any holiday stress, because as fun as they are, there's always something on that to do list. Try to go for a walk after dinner (a great way to get away from the food), or get to the gym in the mornings before the holiday activities begin! Take naps if you're feeling exhausted, because the more tired you are, the hungrier you'll feel.

So, with these tips at hand, go forth and enjoy your holidays without all the guilt and weight gain. Here's to your good health this holiday season!