Healthful Holiday Eating: 10 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain

By Stacey Trogdon RD, CDE

A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded theaverage American gains one pound of weight over the Christmas and holiday season. They also found that this weight gain is not reversed over the rest of the year, and concluded that this probably contributes to the increase in body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood.

Another study reported in Diabetes Care, looked at the increases in A1C and fasting plasma glucose in type 2 diabetic patients, to see whether these increases were steady throughout the year or varied seasonally. They concluded that the winter holidays did influence the glycemic control of the patients, with the largest increases being during that period, increases that might not be reversed during the summer and autumn months.

With that news in mind, the following tips can help you avoid holiday weight gain and boost your awareness of healthful holiday eating;

  1. Be realistic. The holiday season may be a good time to reconsider your weight-loss targets. Maintaining your weight, rather than losing weight, may be a more reasonable goal during this high-temptation time. Don’t deprive yourself of favorite holiday foods, but do look for ways to eat smart and in moderation.
  2. Don’t wait to eat. That is, don’t save up for the big meal. Skipping breakfast or lunch to save room—and calories—for a festive dinner is unwise. If you start out hungry you will likely overeat so be sure to eat breakfast and lunch and consider eating a small snack before you leave home such as a small handful of nuts.
  3. Be discriminating. Eat small servings of the foods you really love and pass on foods that don’t tempt your taste buds.
  4. Police your plate. If your eyes are often bigger than your stomach, using a smaller plate will help to cut down on calories. At a party, size up the plates and pick up the smallest you can find.
  5. Sneak in calorie savings. If you’re the cook, choose calorie-saving preparation methods and ingredients that will hardly be noticed by your guests. Some suggestions include:
      1. Stuff the turkey for show. But also bake bread stuffing separately, which won’t soak up turkey fat during roasting. Serve the out-of-bird stuffing topped with some of the “real stuff.”
      2. Use fat-free evaporated milk instead of whole milk or cream when you make gravy and prepare pumpkin pie.
      3. Mash potatoes with fat-free milk and reduced-fat margarine instead of whole milk and butter. Or try yogurt if you’re feeling adventurous.
      4. Chill soup or gravy overnight, and then scoop off the hardened fat. Better yet, fill the gravy boat using a fat separator.
      5. Use low-fat dressings. Make Waldorf salad with reduced-fat mayo or Miracle Whi
  6. Spritz your drinks. Stretch your alcohol calories by mixing seltzer, juice or diet soda with your drinks. Have a wine spritzer made with half wine and half club soda. Better yet, limit alcohol intake; it releases inhibitions and increases hunger, which adds up to overeating.
  7. Talk it up. Make family and friends, not food, the focus of the holidays. Spend your time socializing—away from the table.
  8. Help the host—and yourself. Bring a lower-calorie, homemade dish to your host’s table, but don’t feel obligated to announce that it’s low-calorie.
  9. Give your guests options. If you are the host, offer healthful choices for guests. Consider crudités with yogurt dip, shrimp cocktail, whole-grain crackers with reduced-fat cheese, baked salmon, grilled vegetables or fresh fruit cups.
  10. Burn it off. If tempting foods are too hard to resist, rescue your waistline by burning off those extra calories. Double you’re walking time in the morning or make an extra trip to the gym for a few weeks.


Stacey Trogdon, RD, CDE CHER Diabetes Educator

Stacey Trogdon, RD, CDE CHER Diabetes Educator

Stacey Trogdon, RD, CDE, received her degree in dietetics from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA and completed her dietetic internship at the University of Washington in Seattle. Stacey has been practicing in the dietetics field for over 20 years with a diverse portfolio of experience including clinical dietetics, private practice, diabetes education and corporate wellness. Her private practice experience included freelance writing, corporate wellness and sports nutrition. Stacey is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Association of Diabetes Educators and the Greater Spokane Dietetic Association where she currently serves as President-Elect.

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