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UC Davis Medical Center

UC Davis Medical Center

FEATURE | Posted Nov. 21, 2013

Avoid those extra holiday pounds

Try maintaining your weight now, rather than dieting later

holiday cornucopia
Maintaining your weight during the holiday season, rather than gaining pounds and having to lose them later, is a great step in starting a healthy lifestyle for the New Year.

The holidays are coming, and the gifts no one wants to get stuck with are those extra pounds associated with holiday eating. With all the family get-togethers, office parties and holiday treats, it is not unusual for people to end up with an extra five to 10 pounds by the time the New Year rolls around.

Maryam Nabavi, MS, RD, a registered dietitian who works with patients at several UC Davis Medical Group clinics, offers the following tips to help everyone avoid putting on weight and make healthier choices during the holidays.

Enjoy breakfast and regular meals daily

Many people figure it's smart to skip breakfast to “save up” for that big afternoon meal. But experts say that's an unhealthy approach. Instead, be consistent with meals to prevent overeating later.

Few meals can be as nutritionally sound and low in calories as breakfast. Try a slice of whole grain toast with low-fat cheese and fresh seasonal fruit or perhaps a low-sugar, high-fiber cereal with chopped fruit and milk. Yogurt with fruit and wheat germ also offer an abundance of vitamins and fiber, along with being low in fat and calories. Such nutrient-rich foods are a healthy way to fuel the body and slow down the temptation of eating sweets.

Studies have shown a breakfast meal containing protein containing food such as yogurt, low fat cheese, egg white or natural nut butter may even help with sustaining energy level and prevent overeating at other meals – and even help with weight management in the long run.

Keep healthy food handy

You’ve eaten lunch to help sustain your energy level. But then comes 4 p.m. Around the office, people are tired and hungry. Coffee is ready, and there is a plate of holiday fudge on the counter. Who can resist?

People don't have to deprive themselves of every treat over the holidays. A taste or bite or two a day of your favorite holiday treat should be fine, as long as you plan and prepare for those inevitable low periods that can lead to too many snacks. 

Keep a bag of cut-up fruits and vegetables and a slice of low-fat cheese or half a cup of low-fat yogurt handy. This will help ensure that the one treat you allow yourself during the day won't turn into several helpings of treats, and too many extra unwanted calories.

Cook lighter

Keep a bag of cut-up fruits and vegetables and a slice of low-fat cheese or half a cup of low-fat yogurt handy.

Modify traditional foods to be lower in calories by reducing sugar and oil in recipes.

  • Opt for turkey instead of ham or roast beef.
  • Avoid injected or “self-basting” birds and instead baste with mixtures of fruit juice, broth and herbs.
  • Cook the stuffing in a separate dish. It will be lower in fat and there will be less risk of food poisoning from undercooked meat juices.
  • Consider serving baked potatoes, yams and steamed vegetables plain rather than as part of a rich casserole or covered with cream sauce. Add salsa or spices to flavor vegetables.
  • Look for lower-fat and lower-calorie versions of favorite recipes, which are designed to omit most of the butter and cream. Substitute evaporated skim milk or low-fat yogurt for cream and sour cream.
  • With baked goods, cut cholesterol by using two egg whites instead of one whole egg, or three egg whites instead of two whole eggs.
  • Use less sugar in baked treats. Instead, add pureed fruit for natural sweetness.

Incorporate veggies

For every holiday meal, serve (or bring to a party) an array of beautifully displayed, healthy foods along with traditional holiday fare. Make a large salad with a colorful assortment of chopped fruits or vegetables. Hors d'oeuvres can include vegetable strips with a low-fat dip or baguette rounds with light spreads such as hummus and basil, chopped chicken or a bit of salmon. Make vegetable roll-ups using a thin pastry such as rice paper and stuff them with low-fat cottage cheese, tofu and fresh vegetables. Flavor these fun finger foods with bits of string cheese and herbs.

Eat wisely

Heap plates with fruits and vegetables and take only small amounts of meat, cheese and other rich foods.

People shouldn't feel that they have to deprive themselves at holiday parties, but they can choose carefully. Portion control is another key to enjoying holiday foods without feeling deprived of the rich traditions.

  • Skip the eggnog and choose fewer alcoholic drinks, which tend to be high in calories. A serving of alcoholic beverage is five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of light beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
  • Sip unsweetened flavored beverages and hydrate with water.
  • Heap plates with fruits and vegetables and take only small amounts of meat, cheese and other rich foods. White meat without the skin is a lower-fat choice than dark meat.
  • Limit gravies and cream sauces to “just a drop for taste.”
  • At dessert time, limit choices to only one or two items. Try just a sliver of a favorite dessert for taste.
  • Enjoy the time with party pals! Focus on the good times spent visiting friends and family.

Exercise, exercise, exercise

Plenty of exercise is one of the best ways to feel healthy during the holiday season. Work in 30 to 60 minutes of exercise sometime during the day before a holiday meal or the office party. Holiday visits with family and friends can also include outside activities such as a bike ride or brisk walk together. Get the kids involved in exercise and recreation while they on a break from school, too. Healthy holiday habits should start at a young age.

Don’t wait for the New Year

Don't wait to make “losing extra holiday pounds” a New Year's resolution. Maintaining your weight during the holiday season, rather than gaining pounds, is a great step in starting a healthy lifestyle for the New Year. With a little planning and a few healthy tips in mind, a person can start right away and feel even better as he or she begins 2014!