It’s that time of year again-the holiday season is in full swing. As my family and I gathered around the Thanksgiving table not too long ago, one thing we were unanimously thankful for was our health. Looking forward to what will surely be a whirlwind of holiday parties, indulgent dinners and decadent desserts over the next month, it can be hard to prioritize the very thing for which we were grateful for.
This time of year makes me think of research published a few years back in the New England Journal of Medicine, examining the effects of holiday weight gain on Americans. The study revealed that, on average, Americans gain one pound between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Although this may seem like a drop in a bucket, what was most notable about the study is that people didn’t lose that extra pound in the following months. In other words, the weight gained during this time is being carried over from year to year, and we all know that weight gain over time can have a huge impact on health. Because it can be so easy to overindulge, here are some tips for keeping this holiday season the healthiest ever.
For starters, consider this fact-hunger and thirst are two sensations that can often be confused. To help monitor hunger this holiday season, be sure to stay hydrated. Next time you find yourself reaching for that second slice of pie, first try having a glass of water or some water-rich food, such as a piece of fruit. Drinking plenty of calorie-free beverages, like water or seltzer, can help keep hunger at bay and reduce overindulging.
Another important pitfall to avoid is skipping meals. When gearing up for big holiday feasts, people often think it’s a good idea to skip breakfast to save calories for later in the day. But, by skipping the most important meal of the day, you set yourself up for failure. Not only will it slow down your metabolism (your body’s ability to burn calories), it often drives unconscious overeating.
Last, keep in mind that the holidays are a special time of year, and celebrations with friends and family call for special treats. Your festivities don’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to these treats-just remember portion size and frequency of your indulgences is most important. When you’re planning what to eat at holiday gatherings, survey the offerings first and select a small portion of your favorite indulgence. Then fill the remainder of your plate with healthier fare. Don’t forget, celebrations don’t have to revolve solely around food-you can enjoy more active time with your loved ones by taking a walk, going sledding or playing in the backyard.
And, for you holiday hosts out there, do everyone a favor and serve up lighter, healthier fare for all to enjoy. Try this healthy holiday recipe (left)at your next gathering. Your guests-and their waistlines-will thank you later! Happy Holidays!