Editor's note: A version of this story was previously published on the author's website.
The holidays are fast approaching, and while Thanksgiving and Christmas may seem to be a ways off, Halloween is just around the corner, and that means the holiday food (and candy!) binge is just beginning.
On average, Americans gain weight every holiday season, according to a study in the New England Medical Journal and online at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, and those pounds just keep adding up. Now, of course it’s OK to enjoy your favorite holiday treats and food is a major part of holidays and traditions. Just try to be smart about it.
So how can you enjoy the holidays, indulge in those favorite treats and still avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain? Here are a few simple tips and tricks to avoid packing on the pounds during the holiday season.
1. Plan ahead: Have a snack before the party
It may seem odd to recommend eating before a party, but this can actually be a helpful tool. Most holiday parties are wall-to-wall cookies, chocolates and other delicious but high sugar and fat foods. Having a healthy fiber and protein-packed snack an hour or so before a party can help keep you from overeating when you get there. Instead of taking one of everything at the buffet because you arrived ravenous, you’ll be able to be more mindful and just pick your favorites to enjoy.
2. Make healthier holiday foods
You shouldn’t have to deprive yourself of delicious treats, especially during the holidays. Don’t be afraid to enjoy treats, just do it in moderation. One great way to do this is to make healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods. Look on Pinterest, blogs, etc., to find healthier versions of your favorite foods. You can also use healthier substitutes in your holiday baking (i.e. avocado for butter, applesauce instead of oil, greek yogurt instead of sour cream, etc.)
3. Water, water, water — stay hydrated
Sometimes when you feel hungry you may actually be a little dehydrated. The feeling of being slightly dehydrated can actually be perceived as hunger. If you find that you’re hungry and have recently eaten, try drinking a glass of water and then wait 15-20 minutes. If you’re still hungry, then eat, but if not you may realize you were just in need of some hydration. You can also try drinking a tall glass of water before meals to make sure you’re hydrated prior to digging into the ham and mashed potatoes.
4. Get out there and be active
It can be hard to stay motivated to work out when the temperature is dipping outside and the last thing you feel like doing is going outside for a run or heading to the gym. Luckily there are plenty of fun ways to stay active during the winter. Try things like skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking and ice skating. There are also a lot of “fun runs” during the holidays (5Ks, 6Ks). These can be a great way to get the whole family involved and get outside, be active and enjoy some fun exercise together.
5. Embrace the grayComment on this story
What exactly does that mean? Well it means don’t think in a “black and white way” about your holiday health. If you overeat at the party or skip working out for a week or two, it doesn’t mean all is lost and you should just quit trying. Don’t give up. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so be mindful, try to get in your fruits and veggies along with all the pumpkin pie. Try to be active most days and give yourself a break. You’re doing the best you can. If today is a struggle, try again tomorrow.