It’s December, and visions of holiday food dance in my head. But making healthy food choices is tough when temptation is everywhere. It’s so easy to splurge and overeat. On average, Americans gain approximately one to two pounds during the holiday season. But you don’t need to wait until the New Year to lose the weight — just a few tweaks can help you avoid holiday weight gain.
We talked with registered dietitian and certified personal trainer John Rickards, and he gave us these five tips for getting through the holiday season without gaining a pound (no deprivation required!):
- Choose wisely. With delicious holiday sweets, such as sugar cookies, chocolates, and pies all around, you may feel it’s difficult to avoid temptation. But that’s okay — just choose wisely. Save your splurge for your favorite foods and keep portion control in mind. That way, you’ll satisfy your craving and prevent binge-eating later. For example, you may want to pass on the donut from the drive-thru and instead wait for a homemade pecan roll or slice of pie.
- Plan ahead. If you have an upcoming holiday breakfast, lunch, or dinner, find out what will be served or check out the menu beforehand for healthier options. Try to fill up on veggies, fruit, and lean protein so you won’t be as tempted when it’s time for dessert or savory seconds.
- When it comes to exercise, something is always better than nothing. We’ve all been there. We want to put in a solid hour of sweat, but we just don’t have the time, so we skip the workout altogether. But every little bit counts, so try to stay at least a little bit active. Set a timer for 20 minutes and do some easy at-home exercises — sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, running in place, and stair-climbing. Schedule workouts on your calendar for times that suit your schedule, preferably while the sun is still up. When it’s dark and cold outside, it can be tough to get motivated to do anything!
- Separate appetite from hunger. Appetite is the desire to eat, while hunger is the physical need to eat. To recognize and stop emotional eating, think about why you have a strong urge to eat something. Are you stressed? Are you tired? Did you skip breakfast or not have enough protein in your last meal? Once you figure it out, it’s easier to find a healthy solution.
- Drinks count as food too. Hot cocoa, peppermint mocha, wine, champagne, eggnog — the list of holiday beverages goes on and on. But remember, drinks can have a lot of sugar (and 400+ calories), so include them when thinking about your holiday nutrition. And just like with food, it’s okay to splurge once in a while, but it’s much easier to cut sugary drinks out of your diet. Sugar is addictive, so the more you eat or drink, the more you want. And while sugar may give you an immediate boost, its long-term effects only make you feel more sluggish.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain With the Gift of Better Nutrition
It’s not always easy fighting temptation on your own. If you’re an IBX member, chances are you’re covered for six free annual visits with a registered dietitian who can help you come up with a healthy meal plan and stick to it — even during the busy and stressful holiday season. Check to see if your plan covers nutrition counseling. If you hurry, you can get some of these visits in before the end of the year, and you’ll have another six to use in 2021.
To find a participating registered dietitian, primary care provider, or another network provider, Independence Blue Cross members can search our Provider Finder Tool.