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Stay active and choose beverages wisely to stay healthy over holidays

November 28, 2007|By LYNN LITTLE

With food being an important part of many holidays, celebrations, family and cultural traditions, it is easy to overeat. The time between Thanksgiving and the beginning of the new year is a time when many of us tend to overeat.

Many people gain a little (or a lot of) weight between Thanksgiving and New Year's. What's to blame? Perhaps it's all the tempting treats available during the holiday season or the pressure from family, friends and co-workers to overeat. Holiday stress and holiday joy also can contribute to increased eating.

Regardless of the reasons, it is not necessary to avoid holiday festivities in an attempt to maintain your weight.

Focus on weight maintenance rather than weight loss during the holidays. If you want to lose weight, the holidays are probably not the time to do it. Maintenance of your present weight is enough of a challenge during the holiday season. Don't set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals.

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Try to be physically active every day. Often busy holiday schedules force you out of your exercise routines. Physical activity, especially aerobic activities like brisk walking, jogging, bicycling and swimming can help relieve stress, regulate appetite and burn extra calories from holiday eating.

Eat a light snack before going to holiday parties. It is always better to not be starving when you arrive at a party. Not only are you more likely to overeat, but you are less likely to resist the temptation of eating high-fat and high-calorie foods. Try eating a piece of fruit, a small carton of yogurt or some string cheese before you go.

Make a plan. Think about where you will be, who you will be with, what foods likely will be available, what foods are really special to you and ones that you could probably do without. What are your personal triggers to overeat and how can you minimize them? Once you have thought about these things, make a plan of action. It's easier to deal with a difficult social eating situation if you have planned for it.

Having a wide variety of foods available during the holidays tempts us to eat too much. At parties and holiday dinners, make one plate of the foods you really want. To prevent overeating and weight gain, think small. Use a smaller plate. When you have eaten the food on that plate, don't take more unless you are sure you are still hungry. You'll feel better at the end of the day and at the end of the holiday season.

Eat slowly, enjoying and savoring every tasty bite. When you are done, pop a mint or stick of gum in your mouth, get a tall glass of water to sip on and position yourself away from the buffet table or food displays to keep yourself from overeating.

Choose your beverages wisely. Alcohol is high in calories. Liquors, sweet wines and sweet mixed drinks contain 150 to 450 calories per glass. Water and diet sodas are calorie-free. If you choose to drink, select light wines and beers and use nonalcoholic mixers such as water and diet soda. Limit your intake to one or two alcoholic drinks per occasion. Be sure you also watch out for calories in soda, fruit punch and egg nog.

Overeating one day won't make or break your eating plan. One day of overeating won't make you gain weight. It takes days and days of overeating to gain weight. If you overindulge at one holiday meal, put it behind you. Return to your usual eating plan the next day. Try to remember balance and moderation.

Enjoy good friends and family. Although food can be a big part of the holiday season, it doesn't have to be the focus. Holidays are a time to reunite with good friends and family, to share laughter and cheer, to celebrate and to give thanks. Relax, enjoy the holidays and remember what the season is all about.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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