The holiday season brings so many opportunities to celebrate with family and friends, and most of them involve a lot of food! On average, people gain 1-2 pounds during the holiday season. That may not be a lot, but it does signify that a lot of people pick up some unhealthy habits that they’d normally avoid. You don’t have to forgo parties or deprive yourself of your favorite foods to avoid gaining weight. Here are a few simple tips to stay healthy while still enjoying the holidays.
1. Plan ahead. Don’t skip meals earlier in the day to prepare for a large holiday meal. This usually backfires because you end up going into the meal over-hungry, and eat more than you originally intended. Instead, eat regularly during the day and plan what you’ll eat at the meal before arriving. Which foods are you really looking forward to? How will you include fruits and vegetables?
2. Be mindful. It takes about 20-30 minutes for your body to tell your mind that it’s had enough food. That means that if you eat past the point of feeling full, you’re probably even more stuffed than you realize! Eat slowly, enjoying each bite you take. This will give your body time to signal your brain that it’s full before you stuff yourself and will also help you feel more satisfied. Put down your utensils after each bite to pace yourself and stop eating when you feel full. It’s okay to leave food on your plate – pack it up for another time!
3. Stick with your exercise routine. Regular exercise will help you maintain your weight during the holidays, and keep you feeling energetic and ready to celebrate! Now is probably not the best time to try to lose weight–-it’s often very difficult, and can add unnecessary frustration to your holiday season.
4. Practice portion control. Don’t completely deny yourself treats. Instead, eat a small slice of your favorite pie, and then fill up on lower-calorie foods like fruits, veggies, popcorn, and low fat dips. Avoid mindlessly eating second helpings.
5. Be kind to yourself. Feel free to enjoy the foods you love. Being healthy during the holidays (or any other time!) doesn’t have to leave you feeling deprived. Don’t try to eat “perfectly” during the holidays (what does that even mean?). Instead, be aware of what events you have coming up, whether it’s a large family dinner, a school party, or anything else. Make room for the foods you love—in moderation. And don’t beat yourself up if you eat unhealthily one day (or two, or three). Extend the holiday spirit of love and cheer to yourself!
Stick with these tips, and you can get through the holidays without feeling as stuffed as the turkey!
Tomi Akanbi, MS, RD is the Clinical Nutrition Coordinator at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. She holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition and Public Health from Columbia University, as well as a BA in Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago. Tomi is passionate about improving our relationship with food and breaking down the barriers that prevent all New Yorkers from having access to affordable, nutritious food. She understands the challenges of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but believes that balanced eating, exercise, and overall wellness can be enjoyable and attainable for all.
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 10,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.