Living Well: 9 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
The holiday season is a celebratory time that often includes rich meals (and plenty of pie!), but without playing a little defense, you could be giving in to holiday weight gain.
The average American gains about one pound during the holiday season, but it’s easy to put on a lot more just by eating 200 extra calories per day, according to Harvard Health.
“A piece of pecan pie and a tumbler of eggnog here, a couple latkes and some butter cookies there, and you could pack on two to three pounds over this five- to six-week period,” according to Harvard Health. “That doesn’t sound like much, except few people shed that extra weight in the following months and years.”
Madysen Jourgensen, registered dietitian at Memorial Regional Health, said even the one-pound weight gain that is common for the average person can really add up over time.
Here’s some of Jougensen’s best advice when it comes to holiday health.
Madysen Jourgensen, registered dietitian at Memorial Regional Health, recommends the following tips for a healthy holiday season:
- Use smaller plates and take only small servings of each food that you’d like to eat (i.e. one small scoop or slice of each food).
- Try to fill your plates with mostly non-starchy vegetables such as green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. (Starchy vegetables include peas, corn and potatoes.)
- You can always pull the skin off of your turkey and only eat the white meat of the bird.
- Practice mindfulness when using condiments such as gravy, butter, jam, etc., as these are all higher calorie food items.
- Fill up on your non-starchy vegetables and protein foods first.
- Bring your own healthy dishes to holiday gatherings for everyone to share.
- Don’t skip meals — if you wait all day to eat on Thanksgiving Day, you are much more likely to over indulge on that Thanksgiving meal.
- Exercise! Although exercise will not counteract all of the foods that you are eating, per se, it will help burn a few extra calories. Something is most definitely better than nothing when it comes to physical activity!
- Practice mindful eating, meaning eat slowly while taking small bites, savor the flavors, colors, textures of your foods, etc.
Nutrition services at MRH
The nutrition team at MRH offers inpatient and outpatient nutrition counseling services. Services include advice, education and tips for following a prescribed diet. Services are available to anyone, without provider referral. For more information about nutrition services at MRH, call 970-826-3182.
Watch your portion sizes
Portion sizes are a major factor in any weight gain, “especially over the holidays when many of the foods that we are consuming are higher in calories,” Jourgensen said.
“Some tips for eating the right portions include using smaller plates, serving with portion-appropriate serving utensils, and you can always use your hand as a guideline for appropriate portion sizes,” she said. “Typically, the palm of your hand is a great visual for an appropriate serving of protein foods (meats); a handful is great for nuts, candies, pretzels and snack foods. Your thumb can be a good indication of appropriate portions of butter, jellies, etc.”
Jourgensen might be a dietitian, but she also occasionally indulges in holiday foods like candies, pie, cookies and such. It’s OK to enjoy these things, but she recommends paying closer attention to what you’re eating, how much you’re eating and when you’ve had enough.
“I really try to remind myself to be mindful of the amount that I take. I do try to fill up on my non-starchy vegetables (like salads, broccoli, asparagus, etc.) first, and try to choose more healthful protein foods like turkey or chicken when available,” she said. “I try not to overfill my plate at mealtimes — you can always go back for more if you’re still hungry after your first plate.”
Exercise is essential, but don’t rely on it to right your wrongs
It’s not an effective strategy to simply erase overindulgences with exercise, although exercise is an important component of any healthy holiday season, Jourgensen said.
“A common saying is that weight loss starts in the kitchen, meaning it starts with the foods that you are eating. Exercise does absolutely help in terms of burning calories and should definitely be included in a healthy holiday season; however, we tend to overestimate the amount of calories that physical activity actually burns,” she said.
According to choosemyplate.gov, in order to burn 370 calories, or one small piece of banana cream pie, you’d need to hike for a whole hour.
“Meaning, if you had Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, a small slice of banana cream pie, etc.), you would burn enough calories in one, 60-minute hike to account for that one slice of banana cream pie,” Jourgensen said. “So, in all reality, exercise does not erase overindulgences; however, it still should be included daily over the holidays — and in general.”