Use This Game Plan for Healthier Holiday Eating

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The holiday season is upon us. Along with all of the joys this time of year brings comes a plethora of tempting foods high in calories, fats, sodium, refined carbohydrates and sugar.

While tasty, too many of these extra goodies can lead to weight gain. During the holidays alone, many Americans gain a pound or two – and for most, that weight won’t be lost after the holidays. A few pounds here and there can result in 10 or 20 down the road.

So what’s the trick to enjoying the holiday season without it weighing you down in the months to come? Here’s the game plan to help you avoid eating pitfalls:

1. Plan Your “Route” Ahead of Time.

Before you leave to go to the party, decide how you’re going to approach eating. Give yourself one, maybe two, food indulgences and then focus on eating fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Once you’re done eating, find something else to focus your attention on that’s away from the buffet or snack table. Seeing food can make you think you’re hungry when you’re not.

2. Fill Up Your “Tank” Before You Head to Your Destination.

Skipping meals actually revs up your appetite, making you hungrier. You’ll end up chowing down on more once you finally eat and there’s a good chance it will be high fat, low-nutritional value food. So, stop for fill-ups often by eating small meals and snacks throughout the day. An apple or a pear right before the meal can save you 200-300 calories later. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full.

3. Watch for “Slippery Spots” on the Road.

Chances are you underestimate calorie intake by 20-40 percent – most people do. Tiny tastes can add up to big calories. An extra cookie, piece of chocolate, a few extra crackers with dip or handful of nuts can add 400-500 calories just like that. Make sure the calories that you’re eating are worth it. You might find chewing sugarless gum or drinking water can help you avoid the temptation to snack.

4. Don’t Drink and “Drive.”

Alcohol is calorie-dense by itself. Add sugary mixes, fruit juice, syrups, cream, and the calories from a few drinks can add up to a meal’s worth. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions and blood sugar levels, so it can make you drink and eat more than you normally would. It’s okay to enjoy yourself at get-togethers, just try to aware of how much you’re drinking. Stick to water or other sugar-free drinks if you’re not drinking alcohol.

5. Be Your Own “Designated Driver.”

You’re in control here. When you encounter food pushers, you know, the ones who want you to eat more cookies and pie or try the special dish they made just for you, say “no thanks, everything is so good but I’ve had enough.” You could get into a long discussion about why you don’t want more, but it’ll likely be met with resistance. If the pressure is strong, ask if you can take some home for later.

Meet the Author

Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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