December is a festive time with holiday parties, office potlucks, New Years celebrations, family dinners and get togethers with friends. With this busy season being full of social eating and drinking it is easy to gain weight over the holidays. Research shows that the average weight gained over the holidays is about 1 lb. One pound may not sound like much, but over the years holiday weight gain can become a major contributor to excess weight gain. The good news is that with a few simple tips you can avoid holiday weight gain and still enjoy your time with friends, family and of course your favorite holiday treats!
- Focus on weight maintenance and not weight loss. During the holiday season your goal should be to avoid gaining weight instead of trying to lose weight. This mindset will help you stay on track and keep you focused on making healthy choices during this busy time. With exercise routines being disrupted and tempting treats everywhere, trying to lose weight during this time can be stressful.
- Keep a food journal. Keeping a food journal is a great strategy to use during the holidays. Smart phone apps such as My Fitness Pal are an easy way to keep track of your food, calorie and carbohydrate intake. When there is always food around you may not realize how much you have actually eaten, so keeping track with an app can help you be more mindful. Additionally, if you’ve overindulged at one meal, you can take a look back at what you’ve eaten and plan to make a healthier choice at your next meal.
- Don’t arrive hungry! If you have a holiday party or a celebration dinner planned, continue to eat regularly during the day. Saving your calories for one big meal can lead you to overeat and as a result, have high blood sugars. Plan to eat regularly with healthy options during the day so that you can have room for a dessert or an extra serving of your favorite food later on. Make sure you have a healthy snack 1-2 hours before you arrive at the party to avoid being over hungry. Choose a snack that has about 100-150 calories, at least 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. Some suggestions include a hard-boiled egg on a slice of whole grain toast, ¾ cup of plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup of frozen berries, or 1 small apple with 10-12 almonds. The combination of protein and fibre will keep you full and well fueled so that you can make healthy choices at dinner.
- Use smaller plates. The smaller your plate, the less food you can fill up on. Often times at dinner parties we don’t have control over the food that is served but we do have control over how much we eat. Choosing appetizer plates is a useful way to help control your portions. Research shows that decreasing your plate size by just 2”, from a 12″ to 10″ plate, will result in eating 22% fewer calories. A small change that gives big results!
- Stick to one starch at your meal. This will allow you and make vegetables and protein the star of your meal and still give you the flexibility to choose your carbohydrates. Whether its potatoes, rice or a dinner roll – choosing one starch will help control your carbohydrate intake and maintain a healthy balance in your meal. If you are still hungry load up on the vegetables, they are low calorie and full of fibre – they are a great way to feel full!
- Healthy Cooking. Bring a vegetable based dish such as these artichokes and parmesan stuffed mushrooms to your holiday pot luck. You can always lighten a dish with a few simple substitutes.
– Swap whole wheat pastry flour for regular white flour
– Replace 1 cup of oil with ½ cup of oil and ½ cup of unsweetened apple sauce
– Substitute 1 cup of heavy cream for 1 cup of evaporated skim milk
– Use two egg whites or a quarter cup of egg substitute instead of one whole egg
If you are looking for a healthy holiday treat, these baked ginger donuts with lemon yogurt glaze use some of the healthy swaps mentioned above.
- Drink wisely. Watching your liquid calories is key when it comes to preventing holiday weight gain. Those who use insulin or are on insulin secretagogues also need to be aware of delayed hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that can occur up to 24 hours after drinking alcohol. However, you can still enjoy alcohol if you have diabetes. Your best options are to choose low carbohydrate drinks such as beer, wine and spirits. If you do have a cocktail, choose seltzer over tonic water and opt for diet sodas – this will help keep your sugar intake to a minimum. Try not to drink on an empty stomach and be sure to include carbohydrates at your meal when drinking alcohol. Pace yourself and have a non-alcoholic drink, such as water in between your drinks. Remember to be mindful of festive drinks – 1 cup of eggnog has over 300 calories and 35 grams of carbohydrate!
- Check your blood sugars. Make sure you continue taking your medication and checking your blood sugars during the holiday season. With hectic holiday schedules it is easy to get out of your regular eating and exercise routine. Monitoring your blood sugars can help you adjust your meal choices to keep within the target range. When your blood sugars are well controlled, you will feel better and be able to enjoy yourself during the holidays.
- Move more. Exercise can help burn extra calories and reduce elevated blood sugars. If your regular exercise routine has taken a hit with the holiday festivities, you can still make a point to move more during the day. Park your car further away, choose stairs over the elevator or go for a short walk with a co-worker over your lunch break. Research suggests that as little as a15-minute walk after your meal can help reduce blood sugar levels. So grab your family for a post meal walk around the neighbourhood and enjoy the crisp air and holiday lights!
- Enjoy the holidays. Focus on quality time with friends and family instead of the food. Holiday events are a great place to meet people and catch up. Distance yourself from the food table to minimize the amount that you eat. Engage in conversation or other interests that take your mind off food. You can volunteer to wash dishes or play with the kids. This is a helpful strategy to have fun and avoid mindless eating.