15 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays
Holiday weight gain is a common concern for many adults. Various seasonal holidays may encourage overeating, sedentary behaviour, and consumption of calorie-rich foods. That said, holiday weight gain is not inevitable. Here are 15 tips to help you avoid weight gain during the holiday season.
1. Be active with parents and friends
Sedentary activities, such as sitting on the couch watching TV, are common holiday traditions for many families. Inactivity may contribute to weight gain, especially if accompanied by overeating. Doing some type of activity with your family may prove beneficial for weight control. Even something as simple as a family walk can get your mind off food and allow you to bond with your loved ones.
2. Snack wisely
During the holiday season, unhealthy snacks like cookies and other goodies tend to be available for you to take as you please. When treats are easy to access, you’re more likely to snack unnecessarily. At home, this problem can be solved by keeping treats out of sight. However, that strategy is more difficult to avoid in situations that you cannot control, such as at your workplace or a family party. Try to be mindful of your snacking habits. If you find yourself munching just because there’s food around — and not because you’re hungry — it’s best to avoid snacking altogether. However, if you are hungry and need a snack, opt for real foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are filling snacks that don’t contain added sugar or unhealthy fats — both of which can lead to weight gain.
3. Watch your portion sizes
When the holidays arrive, it can be easy to overload your plate. Those who eat larger portions tend to gain weight more easily than those who don’t. The best way to overcome this is to control portion sizes or use smaller plates.
4. Practice mindful eating
Studies show that those who eat while distracted are more likely to overeat. This is because they’re unable to pay attention to their body’s fullness signals. To prevent this, eat mindfully and minimize distractions — including work and electronics. Try to chew slowly and thoroughly, which will allow you to better recognize your body’s fullness signals and consume fewer calories. It can also be helpful to take a few deep breaths before you start eating. This can induce relaxation and help you keep your full attention on your plate, rather than your to-do list.
5. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep deprivation, which is quite common during the holidays, may cause weight gain. This is because those who do not sleep enough tend to be hungrier, consume more calories, and exercise less. Sleep restriction may increase your hunger hormone levels, ultimately leading to higher calorie intake.
6. Control your stress levels
Keeping up with the demands of the holidays can be stressful. Stressed individuals commonly have high levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s released in response to stress. Chronically high cortisol levels may cause weight gain, as they have been linked to greater food intake. For these reasons, it’s important to keep stress levels under control in general — but especially during the holidays, when you might be busy and surrounded by unhealthy foods. Plenty of techniques can help you reduce stress. Some options include exercise, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing.
7. Keep meals balanced with protein
Holiday meals are typically rich in carbs but low in protein. However, it’s important to include some protein with every meal, as it promotes fullness and may be useful for weight maintenance. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, and some plant foods like beans and quinoa.
8. Cut back on taste-testing
Many people spend a lot of time cooking and baking during the holiday season. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to weight gain because it’s easy to taste-test your dishes. Even small bites of holiday dishes can add up in calories. Tasting your dishes can be important, especially if you’re cooking for others — but a tiny bite is probably more than enough. You should also make sure that you aren’t hungry while cooking, as it’s much easier to go overboard on taste-testing when your stomach is growling.
9. Bring a healthy dish to share
It can be easy to overeat — or focus on fattening, high-calorie foods — at holiday parties. However, you have control over what you consume. One simple trick is to bring your own healthy dish to share. This way, you can guarantee you’ll have something to eat that aligns with your weight goals.
10. Limit your dessert intake
Dessert is everywhere during the holiday season. This often leads to excessive sugar consumption, a common cause of weight gain. Instead of eating every treat in sight, just focus on your favourites and ditch the rest. Another trick is to savour the desserts you do indulge in, simply taking the time to eat them slowly — which may leave you feeling more satisfied and less likely to overdo it.
11. Limit liquid calories
During the holidays, alcohol, and other calorie-rich beverages are prevalent. These drinks can contribute a significant amount of sugar and empty calories to your diet, which can cause weight gain. Additionally, alcohol consumption is often linked to increased appetite and is a risk factor for weight gain. If you’re trying to control your weight, it’s best to limit your intake of high-calorie beverages.
12. Modify your recipes
High-calorie homemade goods are a primary cause of weight gain during the holidays. However, you can lower the calorie content of recipes in many ways. Here are a few ideas:
- Replace butter with applesauce, mashed banana, or pumpkin puree.
- Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie substitute such as stevia.
- Add dried food instead of candies.
- Use cooking methods like baking, steaming, or grilling instead of frying.
- Replace cream cheese, sour cream, and mayo with Greek yoghurt.
- Use sparkling water in place of sweetened beverages.
- Flavour drinks with a freshly squeezed lemon or lime rather than sugar.
13. Weigh yourself regularly
Stepping on the scale regularly during the holidays can remind you of your weight goals, allowing you to take action before significant weight gain sets in. Find a routine that works best for you. Some find it beneficial to check their weight daily, while others prefer once or twice a week.
14. Avoid processed foods
Processed holiday foods are more available than ever. While quick and easy, these foods often contain excess sugar and unhealthy fats that take a toll on your weight. To prevent weight gain, opt for whole foods and cook your meals from scratch.
15. Plan ahead
Planning ahead can go a long way towards preventing holiday weight gain. If you have parties on the calendar, ask what foods will be served or bring your own dish. Decide what and how much you’ll eat ahead of time. It can also be helpful to gather a list of healthy holiday recipes so that you don’t run out of ideas when you need to bring a dish to a party.