The holiday season is a time for generosity of spirit, mingling with family and friends and reflecting on the year gone by. Unfortunately, it is also a time for cakes, cookies, candy canes, canapés and – of course – calories. You might be still digesting your Thanksgiving turkey and wondering why you decided to have the second piece of pumpkin pie. The scary thought is that this is just the beginning of the holiday season and you probably can expect a barrage of parties with great food that might not be that great for you. If you are like approximately 63% of Americans, you told yourself back in January that you resolved to eat right and lose weight. For most of us, that didn’t go so well. Most Americans gain an average of one pound per holiday season and many have difficulty shedding the extra weight when the reality of New Year’s resolutions rolls around. With all the merriment, it’s easy to forget about all the calories in those holiday treats. Fortunately, you don’t have to look like Santa Claus with a belly like a bowl full of jelly, as long as you follow these 5 holiday tips for keeping the pounds off.
- Don’t keep candy or cookies at home. You’re likely to eat plenty of goodies and sweets at holiday parties and office events. There’s no need to add extra temptation by keeping an abundance of goodies around the house as well. If you’re baking, avoid the temptation to sample and keep your fingers out of the cookie jar. If you get chocolate, candy or other treats as gifts, a local charity would probably appreciate the donation and you can feel good about both your kindness and about the fact that you can still button your pants or skirt in the New Year.
- Prepare for parties. If you’re going to an event where you know there will be food, prepare your strategy in advance. When you want to overindulge, compensate by cutting the calories early in the day. Don’t avoid eating – this can make you more likely to dine on even more unhealthy delights – but do eat healthy and minimize treats outside the party. A good technique is to have a snack before you go and set yourself a concrete limit for just how many cookies you plan to eat.
- Practice smart party behavior. Pace your eating and spend time catching up with family and friends instead of with gingerbread men. Keep toothpicks from the canapés you eat to keep track, and choose the smallest plate at the buffet to help keep your eating under control. Fill up on healthy treats at that buffet, and if you plan to eat a lot, skip the alcohol. Finally, practice saying “no” politely. Many people consume unwanted calories for fear of offending a well-meaning host who keeps hoisting food upon you.
- Be selective with your sins: Pick one great treat per day, or one calorie-packed delight at the party and commit yourself to avoid the others. If you know you’ll be rewarded with the treat you like the most, you’re more likely to be able to pass on the cookies that are just okay. If you’re afraid there won’t be a healthy treat available, bring one if the situation allows. Other guests at the potluck may be struggling with weight gain too and may be delighted to see that you brought a fruit salad instead of another plate of rich and fatty fruit and almond cookies.
- Take Your Time. Wait 15–20 minutes before getting a second plate. It takes your body 15–20 minutes to feel full after eating – so if you go up for seconds immediately after finishing your first plate, your body may already be full. And guess where that extra food will end up? So hold off for a few minutes and then reassess your hunger.
You don’t have to give up eating “clean” just because it’s the holidays. Many of your favorite special-occasion treats can be “cleaned up” simply by swapping whole grains for refined ones, choosing low-fat dairy products, and using minimally processed sugars like honey or dehydrated cane juice sugar instead of granulated white or brown. Even if you do splurge on a few items, be smart and don’t overindulge.
Mark Thomas has headed up marketing departments for OMC, Volvo-Penta, Invisible Fence, and Continental Airlines. He is the Marketing and Public Relations Specialist for the Bristol Development Authority. The Bristol Development Authority (BDA) works to improve the physical, economic, and social environment of the Bristol community by serving as the primary governmental organization dedicated to promoting commercial development, to preserving and improving the City’s housing stock, and to securing and administering the resources required to carry out these goals. The BDA is overseen by an appointed nine-member Board of Commissioners which governs economic and community development policies for Bristol.