The average American gains 1 pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Although this doesn’t sound like much, most people do not lose this weight when the holidays are over, and it begins to accumulate year after year. Even the most disciplined people can find it difficult to stick to their health routines during the holidays. The good news is that there are several steps you can take to stay on track this year:
- Don’t show up to a holiday party on an empty stomach. Many people make the mistake of “saving up” their daily calories in order to indulge at a party. This can result in overeating, so enjoy a sensible snack beforehand, such as a handful of nuts and some fresh fruit.
- Once you arrive at the holiday party, choose mostly healthy options. Pick two or three of your favorite less healthy items, and fill the rest of your plate with nutritious foods. If you are bringing a dish to the party, choose fresh fruit, vegetables with dip, pita chips and hummus, salsa and whole grain chips, or cheese and whole grain crackers.
- Be aware of calorie rich drinks. Eggnog, for example, can contain 350 calories or more per glass. Alcohol contains lots of empty calories, so stick to moderate alcohol intake, which is equivalent to 1 alcoholic beverage per day for women and 2 for men. Furthermore, alcohol lowers inhibitions and increases the likelihood of overeating. Rather than high calorie drinks, stay hydrated with water. Drink a large glass of water before a meal to fill you up. Aim for at least six to eight glasses of water per day.
- Manage your stress and stay active. The holidays can be a busy time of year, and during times of stress, people tend to skip exercise and forgo healthy eating. Exercise is a great stress reliever, so be sure to set aside time for physical activity. Plan your workouts for the week so they are a part of your daily schedule.
- Track your food intake and activity level. This helps you to be more aware of the amount of calories you are consuming and burning. Even if you do eat higher calorie foods, choosing smaller portion sizes will help you to stay within your daily caloric goals.
- Remember that the holiday is just a single day. In reality, one day of indulgence won’t break your health goals, however, many people get into the pattern of indulging during the entire season. Enjoy the holiday, but don’t let that lead to an entire season of poor nutrition and physical activity habits.
Remember that the holiday season is more than just about food. Focus on taking the opportunity to connect with friends and family. If you do indulge, do so mindfully and in moderation. Take steps to engage in healthy behaviors that will help you to stay on track during the holiday season.