It’s that time of year when we look forward to seasonal family gatherings, celebrations, and the foods that come with them. Because the holidays often include unique foods and specialty dishes reserved for this special time, it’s easy to see why many people worry that their healthy eating habits will be forgotten, resulting in weight gain. The good news? Holiday weight gain doesn’t have to be a tradition.

Think about your food

Eating the right amount is mostly about feeling good, not necessarily being good. The key is moderation. If you control your intake and eat a little of everything, you won’t have those feelings of guilt associated with consuming too much.

Decide in advance how you want to feel after the meal is over. Wouldn’t it be nice to push away from the table feeling comfortable but not “stuffed?” Eating slowly and enjoying your company will help contribute to your success. Most importantly, don’t punish yourself if you do happen to overindulge. Just don’t turn one day of overeating into a week or a month. The quicker you get back on track, the better you’ll feel!

Try these tips to get you through the season:

  • Plan to include holiday specialty foods as part of your plate and skip foods that are always available to you. Instead of losing weight, focus on maintaining your weight during the holidays.  Allow yourself to enjoy the festivities and special foods.
  • Eat your holiday favorites in moderate portions.
  • Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, in anticipation of a holiday meal. When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to overeat items that are high in sugar and fat.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Don’t think of foods as “bad” or “forbidden.” Instead, focus on portion control.
  • Be sure to get adequate sleep. Strive for seven to eight hours each night.
  • Don’t forget to exercise! Going outside for a brisk walk between the main course and dessert can refresh your outlook and burn some calories.

Don’t let all the good food and once-a-year desserts derail your healthy eating habits. But most importantly, enjoy your holidays and the people you’re with!

Jeanette Nessett, RDN, LDN

Jeanette Nessett is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a community outreach specialist with the Lifespan Community Health Institute.