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Ways to avoid holiday weight gain

With plenty of tempting fare around, a University of Miami expert offers tips on what foods to avoid during this festive season.
A table display of various sweet treats

The holidays are here. A time for parties, family gatherings, and work celebrations. At every event, the centerpiece is food. In addition, there is plenty of alcohol and desserts to add to your caloric intake.

Overindulgence is quite easy when food is so readily available. Even if you got through Thanksgiving without overeating, how do you approach the upcoming celebrations and avoid packing on the pounds?

“The challenges experienced during the holidays are usually the result of the changes in one’s typical daily routine,” said Alyson Marquez, a registered dietitian with the University of Miami Dining. “Other challenges include the abundance of food, access to the special foods of the season, and our participation in extra social activities.”  

Most experts agree that a helpful strategy is approaching each table laden with food with a mindset of mindful eating. Think ahead about what you will put in your mouth.

“When you don’t have control over the food being served, you can always approach the holiday meal experience with mindful eating,” she said. “Mindful eating encourages one to eat without distraction and to have a sense of gratitude for the food and to fully engage with our senses at mealtime. Mindful eating has been shown to be a good tool for eating less during a meal due to the increased pleasure and awareness that it brings to eating.”  

Some dietitians suggested eating something ahead of the party, so that you feel less hungry as you face the holiday treats. Marquez advised avoiding high caloric food and maybe contributing to the fare by bringing a dish prepared with healthier ingredients.

“You can always bring your own side dish or dessert that is made with whole food ingredients and with better ingredients to minimize the fat, sugar, and sodium content,” she said. Bringing calorie free or low-calorie beverages are also an excellent way to minimize or avoid the high calorie drinks.” 

She also said, if possible, that it is better to reach out to the healthier choices on the buffet table.

“Enjoy fruits, fruit salads, or fruit kebabs; vegetables such as salad greens, cooked greens, roasted or steamed vegetables; or whole grain dishes,” she added.  

Keeping up with an exercise regimen is also important during the holidays. It will help prevent excess weight and provide the energy needed to deal with all the demands of the season, she noted. 

Here are a few other tips from our experts to avoid holiday weight gain:

  1. Use small plates. Having a small, full plate fools the brain into thinking that it is getting a lot.
  2. Cut back on alcohol. Sip on sparkling water or plain water in between drinking alcoholic beverages to minimize the number of high-caloric drinks.
  3. Use a plate method to balance what you eat. Fill half the plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with carbohydrates.
  4. Avoid bread and soda if you anticipate eating carbs during the main meal.