As much as we look forward to holiday parties and dinners, many of us fear enjoying it too much – and packing on the pounds.
Indeed, the average American consumes approximately 4,500 calories and 229 grams fat from eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. And that doesn’t include breakfast, lunch, or late-night snacking on leftovers.
Studies show that the average American gains 1 to 2 pounds during the holiday season. And, those extra pounds tend to become permanent baggage. Year after year, those pounds can add up, and contribute to overweight or obesity later in life.
Although we may not all gain weight over the holidays, there is no question we tend to eat and drink more -- and exercise less. With the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, parties and festive traditions, healthy eating and exercise are usually the first things to go.
No one wants to be on a strict diet during the holidays. We want to enjoy the bounty of traditional favorite foods. How can you enjoy the holidays without gaining weight? Dietitians say it’s not so hard, with a little planning.
- First, if you’ve been trying to lose weight, when mid-November rolls around, shift your focus from weight loss to weight maintenance. “The holiday season is tough enough to just maintain your weight let alone try to lose weight. So do yourself a favor,” says Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, Boston University clinical assistant professor. “Allow yourself a few treats and set your goal on weight maintenance so you can enjoy the holiday foods and wait until the New Year to get back on your weight loss plan.”
- Second, if you are the host of dinners and parties, trim calories wherever you can without compromising tradition or flavor. You’ll help everyone enjoy the bountiful food without packing on the pounds. Keep in mind, experts say, it is much harder to lose weight than it is not to gain it in the first place.
Here are 10 tips to lighten up your holiday meals.
1. Shop Smart for Healthy Holidays
Plan your menu to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
Consult the nutrition label to choose foods rich in nutrients but lower in fat, calories, and sugar.
To shave calories, go easy when adding nuts, cheese, cream sauces, gravy, butter, and whipped cream.
2. Start the Party Light
Most appetizers tend to be loaded with calories. And it is so easy to over eat them before the meal.
Make it easier on your guests by offering light and satisfying appetizers. For tempting yet healthy appetizers, offer shrimp cocktails, whole-grain crackers with reduced-fat cheese, vegetables with a low-fat yogurt dip, or fresh fruit skewers.