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Strategies for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

By Monica Smith, Community Registered Dietitian

I always advise participants in my OFF Weight Management Support Sessions to focus on weight gain prevention during the holidays. It’s more difficult, but not impossible, to lose weight with all the tempting special holiday foods. If we’re not careful, we can easily put on an extra ten pounds (or more) throughout the holiday season! Then, it would require that much more extra effort to lose weight during the new year. Planning ahead will let you enjoy holiday food without overindulging.

Typical calories on turkey day can be up to 4,500 calories! The majority of adult men and women need only 2,000 calories a day (or even less) to maintain our weight. Here are some eating strategies to help you avoid overindulging during the holidays.

  • Be active! You are eating extra calories and fat, so balance it out by staying physically active. Plus, exercise (even going for a walk) can be a great stress reliever. It can also be a great way to bond with family members (or avoid them). Plan ahead to include physical activity into your holiday schedule.
  • Chew slowly and enjoy your food! The amount of time spent chewing food and drinking beverages can have an important impact on feeling of full. Chewing slowly and enjoying the food and conversation will help you to be more aware of how much you’re eating so you’re more likely to stop eating when feeling satisfied.
  • Avoid the “over-stuffed feeling.” Aim to stop eating when you feel satisfied or have a neutral feeling, instead of eating to the point of hurting. You can always have another plate for dinner later or wait to have the pie/dessert as a snack later, instead of right after the big meal. Eat on smaller plates and try not to fill up every spot on your plate.

Eat LESS of this (contains more calories and fat):

  • Turkey (dark meat, leg)
  • Casseroles (Green bean, corn, sweet potato)
  • Stuffing/Dressing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Pecan Pie (1/8 of 9” pie is 500 calories, 27g fat and 64 grams of carbohydrates)

Eat MORE of this (contains fewer calories and less fat):

  • Turkey (white meat)
  • Cranberry sauce/salad
  • Whole grain roll
  • Plain fruit or salad
  • Vegetables, plain or with very small amounts of buttery or sugary sauces (green beans, carrots, corn, peas, sweet potato)
  • Pumpkin Pie (1/8 of 9” pie is 315 calories, 15g fat and 40g carbohydrates)

TIP — you can also choose not to eat the back crust of the pies and save a lot of calories.

Tips for Beverage intake:

  • Drink water throughout day and during meals.
  • Drink diet soda, unsweetened tea or coffee with the meal.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages to 1 serving/day for women; 1-2 servings/day for men.
  • Use your caloric beverage to signal meal’s end (instead of before), and drink slowly to enjoy it.

Other Tips:

  • Choose your foods thoughtfully. Be careful not to fill up on everyday foods, when what you really want is the special holiday dessert. For example, don’t overload on mashed potatoes or rolls when you can eat those anytime. Save room for special foods, such as pumpkin pie, turkey or dressing.
  • Eat the foods you really want first to prevent overeating to get them later. Don’t get seconds at a meal. You can always eat more later when you are hungry again. Or take some leftovers home. Food is more enjoyable when you are hungry.
  • Lose the mindset that you can “Eat all you want just because it’s Thanksgiving!” If you go into the season with that mindset, then you are more likely to overindulge. Allow yourself to eat special foods in moderation so you don’t feel deprived. Remember how uncomfortable it feels to overindulge and then need to lose that extra weight in January.

If you are interested in attending the “OFF” free monthly weight management support sessions, they are available to the NKY community (including NKY Health employees). Sessions are held monthly on Mondays, 6-7:30 p.m., at the Kenton County Library in Erlanger. The next few sessions are Nov. 5, Dec. 10 and Jan. 14. OFF sessions focus on learning how to lose and manage your weight through long-term lifestyle changes of healthy food choices, eating habits and regular exercise. Come as needed for accountability, support, motivation, knowledge and for community by connecting with others on the same journey!

If interested, contact Monica Smith at 859-363-2114 or monica.smith@nkyhealth.org.