Many of us think gaining weight goes hand in hand with holiday celebrations, but studies show that between mid-November and early January, the average person actually gains about one pound — not the 5 pounds we often expect to see on the scale. But most people never lose that one pound they may have gained during the cold months, and find that after 10-plus years, those pounds have added up. The key is to make sure healthy holiday eating is part of your routine.
8 tips for a healthier “you”
- Don’t skip meals. It may seem like a good idea to save calories for a large meal later in the day, but being overly hungry can set you up to overeat, especially if you’ll be near high-fat or sugary treats. Instead, have breakfast, a light lunch and a small snack such as a piece of fruit. It’s easier to make healthy choices when you’re not famished.
- Prepare healthy meals at home. Plan ahead for meals that are quick and easy. If you’re expecting company, get your guests involved in the kitchen so you don’t miss the fun. And don’t forget to fill your plate with vegetables and fruits, lean protein and whole grains to give added energy.
- Include delicious, nutritious snacks. Rather than cheese and crackers or holiday cookies, plan snacks like raw vegetables and hummus or a handful of nuts.
- Take healthy dishes to a potluck-style dinner or party. Think foods you can eat freely: a vegetable tray, roasted vegetables or a fruit salad. You’ll know ahead of time there will be at least one healthy dish available.
- Avoid drinking excess calories. It’s easy to put away 350 calories or more with a single cup of eggnog — and calories add up quickly from alcohol. Save those calories for your food, and choose calorie-free beverages such as sparkling water or water with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
- Include a few treats as part of your healthy eating pattern. A few splurges shouldn’t de-rail your health or weight management plans as long as you fit them into your day by eating well the rest of the time. Have a small portion of the most delicious treat, the one made especially for you or the one you only see once a year. And then get back to healthy living — without feeling guilty or discouraged.
- Make exercise a priority. Whether you’re on “vacation schedule” or following your usual schedule, set aside time for physical activity every day. Go to the fitness center, try a winter sport like cross country skiing, go dancing or simply get out and walk. Even if it’s a holiday, we still need to be moving, stretching and burning calories!
- Take time for stress management. Even the happy stressors of holidays and vacations can take a toll on your well-being if you don’t allow time to take care of yourself.
Think of your healthy routine as the gift you give yourself this holiday season.You’ll arrive at the New Year feeling encouraged and motivated to keep up the good work.
As part of the holiday season, consider the gift of good health for yourself or others. The U-M Metabolic Fitness Program accepts new patients each month who are particularly interested in optimizing their lifestyle to prevent heart diseases, stroke and diabetes.
Take the next step:
- Learn how to deal with holiday food cravings.
- Watch a video about choosing healthy holiday foods.
- Get tips for squeezing in exercise and managing stress this holiday season.
Martha Weintraub, ACSW, MPH, RDN, is a member of the outpatient nutrition team at the Cardiovascular Medicine Clinic at Domino’s Farms.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.