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Staying Fit and Healthy During the Holidays

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With the arrival of the holiday season comes the many temptations to overindulge. From the abundance of holiday goodies to the dizzying calendar of family dinners, office parties and other get-togethers, it’s safe to say that gaining weight at this time of year is as easy as apple pie. It’s a common belief that Americans typically gain about five pounds during the holidays. According to a recent study however, the actual weight gain per person only averages to one pound. As reassuring as this sounds, this one pound is rarely shed even after the festivities builds up over the years. So what can you do this to stay in shape and keep from acquiring that notorious – and tenacious – ‘winter fat’?

Traditions with a (Healthy) Twist

For many of us, altering our traditional family recipes borders on sacrilegious. What can be better than an old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, right? It’s the once-a-year indulgence that many of us look forward to. The good news is not all of your favorite foods are off limits. Here are some easy ways to trim calories and fat from holiday foods:

  • Set out bowls of wholesome snacks like nuts, pretzels or low-fat party mixes.
  • Offer a good selection of healthy appetizers like smoked salmon with low-fat cream cheese on crackers or pita bread with hummus.
  • Include salad in your menu – and choose dressings like vinaigrette instead of thousand island or blue cheese.
  • Cut the fat and calories in gravy by passing it through a skimmer before serving.
  • Cook the stuffing outside the turkey. It contains fewer calories and fat than stuffing cooked inside the bird and reduces the risk of bacteria contamination.
  • Prepare low-fat and low-calorie side dishes like fresh fruit salad or steamed vegetables topped with lemon juice and herbs.
  • Eat skinless, white meat turkey instead of dark meat.
  • Choose apple pie (preferably topped with fat free frozen yogurt) over pecan pie.

Other Stay-Fit Strategies

While most of the tips above can help you minimize the fat and carbs in the meals you serve, they may be harder to follow when you are enjoying the holidays outside of your home. Whether you have accepted an invitation as a dinner guest, are participating in your office potluck or are just spending quality time with the rest of your family, there are ways you can party without packing on the pounds.

  • Party Smartly If you have been invited to several holiday events, do you really need to attend them all? The more parties you attend, the more likely you will overindulge. If you do decide to attend them all, never arrive on an empty stomach. Eat a small salad or other low-fat snack before leaving. This will help you from overeating at the buffet table once you are at the party.

  • Stay Away from the Buffet When you are at a party, don't stand near the food tables. If you are carrying on a conversation with another person, go sit down somewhere instead of hovering over the buffet. This will help prevent you from unconsciously nibbling on extra food.

  • Family and Friends First, Food Second While food is certainly a major component in the joys of the holidays, it is important to not let it be the only focus. Concentrate instead on your family and friends and celebrate the simple joy of being together.

  • Think Before You Drink If you wish to partake of alcohol during the holidays, be sure to never drink on an empty stomach. Always have food with your drink. Avoid drinking in excess as well, as alcohol has a tendency to loosen inhibitions, which may encourage you to overeat.

  • Keep On Working Instead of falling into your sofa after returning home from a party, hit the treadmill for half an hour. Exercise should be a major part of your lifestyle throughout the year, and the holidays should be no different. A workout is the perfect way for you unwind from the stresses of battling in the shopping aisles at the mall. Most importantly, though, it is a great way to burn off those extra calories!

The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family, friends, and for many of us, food. If you want to avoid gaining excess weight during the holidays, try these simple suggestions – and skip ‘shed winter fat’ as a New Year's resolution.

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