It’s just about impossible to go to a holiday gathering and not expect to be surrounded by tantalizing food. Unfortunately, many of these delectable delights are eaten to excess and loaded with calories and fat. Weight gain seems inevitable – or is it?
“I would say on average, many people do put on a few pounds during the holidays,” says Lindsey Stromberg, a registered dietitian it the Food and Nutrition Department for Cooper University Hospital.“People may be engaged in conversation while eating and aren’t necessarily paying attention to what they are eating. They also tend to decrease their water consumption and exercise less,” she said.
Here are some tips that Ms. Stromberg offers to help you watch what you eat.
- Do not plan or start a weight loss program during the holidays – a surefire recipe for failure. At this time of year, weight maintenance should be your goal.
- Be active. Taking exercise breaks can do wonders for your anxiety levels while burning up extra calories. Schedule a time during your day such as first thing in the morning for a 10-minute walk. Go for a walk with family members after a holiday meal. Do a few laps at the mall. Park your car at the far end of the lot. Take the stairs instead of the escalator.
- Do not wait to eat before going to a holiday party. Make sure you consume a regular breakfast and lunch. A healthy and light snack before the party will also help tame your appetite. “There’s no such thing as saving calories. Don’t starve yourself because you are only likely to overeat later on,” Ms. Stromberg says.
- Survey all your choices and devise a game plan before putting anything on your plate. Try to make three-fourths of your plate low-calorie foods, such as broccoli, corn and fruit salad. “The more raw, the better,” Ms. Stromberg says.
- Choose low-calorie foods, which should include raw fruits and vegetables. Boiled shrimp or low-fat cheeses and whole grain crackers are healthy snacks. Keep in mind anything you “dip” is probably going to be a high-calorie food.
- Opt for smaller plate sizes, rather than a large plate. Fill a small salad plate with goodies, and then don’t remain in the same room as the food. “If small plates aren’t available, try to not have your foods touch. That can help control your portion sizes, too,” Ms. Stromberg says. “Do not choose any sizes bigger than your fist.”
- Avoid foods that are smothered in sauces or gravy. If you want gravy, don’t place it on top of the food. Put a small amount next to the item, and dip your food into it.
- Choose steamed or fresh vegetables. Also go with grilled or baked foods. If you eat poultry, take the skin off.
- Munch on lightly salted nuts, which are a good source of unsaturated fat and are high in fiber. But only take a handful because nuts quickly add up in calories.
- Limit your alcohol. Alcohol is high in calories and can quickly dehydrate you.
- Watch your portion size when you eat desserts. A treat is fine, but just keep in mind just how much you’re eating. Choose pumpkin pie with fat-free whip cream, low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.
- Try recipe substitutions. Use low-fat whipping cream instead of regular, egg whites rather than whole eggs, whole grain flour over white flour and applesauce to replace sugar.
Of course, it may be inevitable that you will overeat every so often. “If you overindulge at a meal, don’t beat yourself up for it. Eat more veggies in your next meal. Go for a walk after your meal,” Ms. Stromberg said.
To make an appointment with a Cooper University Hospital physician at an office near you, please call 1-800-8-COOPER to speak with a member of our physician referral and information service.