7 Smart Nutrition Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Updated on November 6, 2018
Kaitlyn Lo profile image

Kaitlyn has a background in psychology and writes articles that teach you how to lean on your body, mind, heart, and on those around you.

How can we turn down a decadent mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows??
How can we turn down a decadent mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows?? | Source

Turkey with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes smothered with gravy, your favorite pie baked lovingly by Grandma, and other holiday treats make up the centerpiece for a joyous holiday celebration. From Halloween through to New Year’s Day, not only will tasty treats appear more often at the office, but you’ll likely be attending many festive gatherings with friends and family as well. Even a simple grocery trip may turn into a game of hide and seek with all the brightly colored shelves of holiday desserts and candies.

So how can you avoid temptation and prevent gaining the all-too-common holiday inches? Here are 7 strategies to help you make smart nutrition choices this holiday season.

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1. Keep Your Indulgence Confined to One Special Day

One main reason we gain weight during the holidays is that we get swept up in the holiday spirit and load up our plates with everything in sight. It’s the holidays, right? We deserve to indulge a little!

You’re not wrong, but if you don’t want your waistline to hate you later, perhaps it’s better to keep your indulgences confined to one particular day. Maybe there’s a particularly important dinner party with close friends and family? Keep your holiday treats in moderation so you can really enjoy yourself on that day.

Have a wonderful festive day with lots of delicious goodies scheduled? Plan in advance so you can indulge to your heart's content on the day.
Have a wonderful festive day with lots of delicious goodies scheduled? Plan in advance so you can indulge to your heart's content on the day. | Source

2. Schedule a Little Movement

We could all move a little more in our everyday lives. Not just sweaty gym sessions though, but more moving and less sitting. If you’re like the majority of us, your holidays are spent sitting indoors either watching movies, eating, or playing board games with your family and friends. Or maybe all three at the same time. So the least you can do to counteract all that sedentary time is to get in some light exercise.

Maybe wake up a little earlier and go for a morning stroll/jog. Go biking with your family or play a game of catch. Walk your dog! Or even set out for an after-dinner stroll around the neighborhood. Adding a little extra movement into your day doesn’t have to mean huffing and puffing away on the treadmill.

Go on a stroll with your family!
Go on a stroll with your family! | Source

3. Fill Up With the Good Stuff First

When filling your plate, start with the foods that will fulfill your daily nutritional needs. By piling on those foods first, you’ll ensure that you eat your vegetables. You’ll also leave less space in your stomach to snack on those sneaky holiday treats later.

If you’re having a Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, load up on the turkey first, then head for the roasted vegetables, green beans, brussel sprouts, and salad. After filling up on a bit of every kind of vegetable available, then head to the starches like mashed potatoes and maybe a little bit of stuffing. After all that, you should be too stuffed to be interested in any more than a bite or two of dessert.

Load up on turkey or chicken with a generous side of veggies for a filling and nutritious meal.
Load up on turkey or chicken with a generous side of veggies for a filling and nutritious meal. | Source

4. Save Yourself For That One Amazing Meal

Going with the same idea of confining your indulgences to one particular day, you can choose to take it a little further and limit your treats to just one holiday meal and dessert. Most holiday celebrations are a day-long affair with an endless supply of snacks and delicious treats that fill us up before an actual holiday meal is served. So why not hold off on the nibbling and save room for the real deal? Since you didn’t snack, you’ll actually be hungry for the best meal of the day and really enjoy tucking into your food.

If you know there's a delicious festive meal coming up, hold off on treats so you'll have plenty of room to enjoy that meal!
If you know there's a delicious festive meal coming up, hold off on treats so you'll have plenty of room to enjoy that meal! | Source

Did You Know?

Studies found that weight gained during the holidays are mostly not reversed after the season is over, and is therefore a main contributor to continual weight gain during adulthood.

5. Bring Something Healthy

Many holiday gatherings are potluck style so if you’re afraid that there won’t be a healthy option available, just bring it yourself. That way you’ll guarantee that there’s at least one healthy option you’ll feel good about eating. Even if your festive gathering isn’t a potluck, your hosts certainly won’t mind if you offer to help out by bringing a dish or two to the table.

A healthy protein-packed salad can be a delicious addition to any holiday feast.
A healthy protein-packed salad can be a delicious addition to any holiday feast. | Source

6. Choose Your Treats

Plan in advance to be a little more flexible about your eating habits during this time of year. That way, you can savor all the different treats available without feeling like you need to binge everything on your cheat day. Allow yourself some pudding when you want it, then make up for those calories by replacing your morning latte with a black coffee.

Also choose your treats wisely. Instead of grabbing for any item that looks yummy, pick foods that are truly unique to the season and holiday. Why scarf brownies when you can have them any time of the year? Skip the brownies and wait for the eggnog instead.

Why snack on regular cookies when you can save space for these amazing Christmas cookies instead?
Why snack on regular cookies when you can save space for these amazing Christmas cookies instead? | Source

7. Watch Your Drinks

Holiday cocktails sure are easy to go down, but they also pack a mighty caloric punch. According to NHS UK, a standard glass of wine has the equivalent amount of calories as a large square of chocolate, and a pint of beer has the same amount of calories as a bag of chips! So do drink and enjoy yourself, but make sure you treat each beverage like a dessert item and choose water if you’re only drinking to quench your thirst.

A glass of wine or eggnog is a must-have during a holiday meal, but don't forget that the calories in alcohol is not insignificant.
A glass of wine or eggnog is a must-have during a holiday meal, but don't forget that the calories in alcohol is not insignificant. | Source

References and Further Reading

1. CHEAT DAYS MIGHT BE THE KEY TO DIET SUCCESS, STUDY CLAIMS. via The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/lose-weight-diet-cheat-days-study-australia-a7957556.html

2. Differences of energy expenditure while sitting versus standing: A systematic review and meta-analysis. via Sage Journals. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2047487317752186

3. Calories in Alcohol. via NHS UK. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/calories-in-alcohol/

4. A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. via US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4336296/

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 KV Lo

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      • Kaitlyn Lo profile imageAUTHOR

        KV Lo 

        8 days ago

        Hi Mohan! Thanks for reading! Of course you may choose to abstain from all the holiday treats if you have the self-control! But if abstaining means not participating in holiday social events, then I don't believe that is healthy. There is more to wellness than avoiding weight gain. :) However, if you have a way to abstain without withdrawing from holiday celebrations, then by all means!

      • Babu Mohan profile image

        Mohan Babu 

        8 days ago from Chennai, India

        Hi. Very nice & informative. You have stressed the need for moderation when it comes to indulgence. But is abstinence an option too for someone who can?

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