As the holidays get closer, you feel an overwhelming feeling of joy knowing what they bring. You will get to spend more time with your family, hopefully, be able to take some time off work, and participate in your annual traditions that occur around this time. Unfortunately, another thing that tends to happen every year during the holiday season is dealing with weight gain.
Whether you are trying to lose weight or simply avoid weight gain, the holidays can be a real struggle. So many of the parties, activities, and traditions involve food, and usually not healthy food. This makes it feel as if avoiding weight gain is a complete lost cause as you try to get through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah if that is what you celebrate.
Luckily, hope is not lost. There are still some ways you can avoid gaining weight and even lose a few pounds during the holiday season. Follow these tips and suggestions, and remember that you don’t have to be miserable during the holidays or feel like you are being left out just because you don’t want to gain weight.
Start Eating Healthy Before the Holidays
One of the hardest things to do is actually start eating healthy right when the holidays begin. If you are not in the practice of watching what you eat, looking at portions and trying to hold off on certain types of foods and sweets, it can be a real challenge to avoid holiday weight gain. Instead of waiting until the holidays are already started to re-think how you eat and what your diet should consist of, start eating healthy well before they begin.
It is never too soon to start eating better, so start today. Stop waiting until the perfect day of the week, the first day of the month, or the new year. You know what happens when you wait until January 1st? Not only have you gained weight over the holidays so that you have more weight to lose, but you might have been drinking and partying on New Years’ Eve, so the last thing you want to do is get up to exercise and start your brand new healthy life on the first. This starts a really bad habit of constantly trying to find the perfect day.
Start right now looking up what healthy eating lifestyle you want to follow, get some recipes created, and don’t hesitate to make the switch to a healthier lifestyle. Get your family involved, and it will be that much easier.
Focus on Health, Not ‘Dieting’
Another thing you may struggle with when the holidays begin is feeling like you are missing out when you can’t eat what everyone else is eating. If this is one of your biggest problems, then what you want to do is change your entire thought process. You are probably under the misconception that avoiding weight gain and being healthy means starving yourself and doing without. You don’t have to live on water and carrot sticks just to lose weight or avoid weight gain when Christmas is around the corner.
Don’t think about this as a “diet”, since that seems to be a dirty word that can give you the wrong impression. Instead, tell yourself you are going to be healthier during the holiday season and really focus on that. Don’t count calories, carbs, or fat grams in your food, but look at the ingredients and consider whether or not it contains any nutrients. Every time you are deciding what to eat, think about your health and decide how many superfoods it contains, if it is going to give you more energy, and if your body is craving it. This alone can really make a big difference when trying to be healthier and avoid holiday weight gain.
How to Focus More on Your Health
Here are a few quick tips and tricks to focus more on your health and less on being on a diet.
Know what is in everything you eat. You should never eat anything when you aren’t clear about the ingredients or how it was made. If you are at a restaurant, ask the waiter or look up the ingredients online before ordering. When making food or treats at home, start reading the ingredients list and avoid foods with a lot of high-fructose corn syrup or ingredients you can’t pronounce. If someone else made the food for you, don’t be shy and really ask what it contains.
Offer to make more dishes for parties and holiday events. The best way to know that you are eating something that is good for you is by making it yourself. When you are invited to a Christmas dinner or a holiday party, ask if you can bring something. If they allow it, you will be able to control at least one dish that will be at the party. That way, there is less guesswork when it comes time to choose an appetizer or main course for the meal since you made it yourself.
Aim for a healthy balance in all your meals and snacks. Instead of struggling to count calories and figure out how many carbs you are eating, simply try to have a good balance with everything you eat. If you are going to have a bagel for breakfast, try to choose a whole wheat bagel to have grains with your breakfast, then add some sliced fruit on top of the bagel. You now have breakfast with fruit, low-fat dairy, and whole grains all in one. It is much healthier than just a plain bagel with cream cheese. With all of your meals, try to aim for lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and veggies, or any combination of them.
Try to add more fruits and veggies. A super-easy way to focus more on health instead of being on a diet is to just add more fruits and veggies to your meals and snacks. This is really easy to do and doesn’t make you feel like you are missing out on anything, but rather adding in more nutrition to your meals. For example, have whatever cereal you want, but include some sliced strawberries or bananas in it. For lunch, go ahead and have the sandwich you wanted, but make sure there are veggies on it or a side salad. If you want fries with your dinner, have half fries and half veggies. These simple changes make a really big difference.
Get Plenty of Exercise Throughout the Holiday Season
What you eat isn’t the only thing that is going to keep you from holiday weight gain. You also need to focus on getting regular physical activity. Gaining weight usually comes from eating more than you burn each day, so you want to burn as many calories as you can. Plus, with regular exercise, you are getting more energy, boosting your metabolism, and boosting your mood, all of which can keep you from emotional eating during the holiday season. Here are some tips for getting more exercise during the holidays.
Exercise Indoors During Inclement Weather
One of the problems with physical fitness during the holidays is that the weather is often colder. If you live somewhere that gets cold temperatures with snow and hail, you probably don’t want to go for walks outside or head on a nice nature hike. In this case, think about some workouts that you can indoors. Trust me, there are plenty of options. Here are some different ideas for exercising indoors:
- Get a gym membership
- Purchase a treadmill or elliptical machine
- Walk up and downstairs at the mall
- Do a workout DVD
- Start doing yoga or Pilates
- Use an indoor trampoline
Choose Workouts You Will Enjoy
Another big part about exercising during the holidays is that you feel forced to do exercises you don’t particularly enjoy. Just because your friend or relative really likes to go running or enjoys using an elliptical machine, doesn’t mean that you will. Think about some of your own personal interests and use those to figure out what workout is best for you. Maybe you can’t stand going to the gym, but you always enjoy nights out with girlfriends at nightclubs. Dancing at home for 45 minutes a night might just be the perfect exercise for you. If you have television shows you like to watch every day after work, then maybe you would prefer to get a treadmill so you can exercise while watching them.
Try to Involve Others When Working Out
The holidays are a time for being together as a family, so if you don’t want to miss out on this quality time with your loved ones, involve them in your workout plan. Get your kids and spouse together and go for walks in the evening after dinner, or head to the local park with your friends and go for a walk or a hike on warm days. Find someone else who also wants to work on avoiding holiday weight gain and team up for whatever exercises you decide to do together.
Schedule Exercise Into Your Daily Schedule
If you find that you never have time for exercise, then you need to learn how to make time. Not everyone has several hours of day that are free, making it easy for them to use up some of this time for regular fitness. Most people have to schedule it into their life and treat it just like any other appointment. Choose days and times that work best for your schedule, whether you go to the gym early in the morning before work or you do most of your fitness routines over the weekend. Actually mark it on your calendar to remind you when it is time for your exercise.
Take Advantage of Opportunities to Burn More Calories
There may be times when you have a really good opportunity to burn some more calories, so you should definitely take advantage. Here are some opportunities you don’t want to miss:
- Use the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator
- Park further away from stores in the parking lot
- Walk during your breaks at work
- Walk laps through the mall instead of just going to the stores you are shopping at
- Take your dogs for long walks in the evening
Cook Alternatives to Your Holiday Favorites
If you are planning Christmas dinner or trying to think of some fun treats for your kids during the holiday season, you might find yourself faced with a dilemma. You want to eat a traditional dinner, but you don’t want all the added calories that go along with it. This is a time when you need to choose alternatives to your favorites. You can still have all the sides you normally would prepare with your Christmas ham, but just re-think it a little bit. This is where focusing on health really comes into play to avoid holiday weight gain. Here are some different ideas to try out.
Use Cauliflower Instead of Potatoes
This is something many people are discovering, and it works quite well. Cauliflower is quickly becoming a fan favorite for anyone trying to eat healthier. It is low in fat, calories, and carbs, so whether you are cutting back on your calories or you are on a low-carb diet, it is allowed. You can also have it if you are on the Paleo, Keto, or Whole30 diet, so that is another bonus. With cauliflower, you can turn it into mashed potatoes for a much healthier version. Just cut it into pieces and put it in the food processor until you have a potato consistency. You can then prepare it just as you would your mashed potatoes.
Cut the Butter in half
A lot of recipes are going to call for butter, and while you might still want to use it to get the right flavor and consistency, you can usually cut how much is used. For example, if you are preparing mashed potatoes or stuffing, consider using 1 tbsp of butter if it calls for 2, taste the recipe, then see if that is enough. Another option is to switch to nut butter, so use almond butter or cashew butter instead of the original. It gives the recipe a slightly different taste but is usually better for you.
Use Low-Fat Dairy Products
When it comes to dairy products, there are a lot of recipes with holiday dinners and treats that call for it, but like butter, you can re-think how you use it. To start with, consider switching to low-fat or fat-free dairy products, including cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, and milk. You can also try using almond or soy milk instead of cow’s milk to make it a little bit healthier.
Stop Adding Sugar to Everything
You might need to add sugar to sweet treats, but do you really need to add sugar to your sauce, dip, or ham glaze? Try to think about why you are using sugar or why it is included in the recipe and see if it can do without it. Everything involving holiday meals is always so sweet, so it is possible that you can do without it, or find a better sweet alternative. Things like maple syrup and honey are often used in recipes in place of sugar, which is much better for you.
Make More Vegetable Sides
When you are trying to choose sides for your holiday dinner, think about using vegetables. Winter veggies like butternut and acorn squash, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans are all perfect sides for Christmas dinner. Instead of a green bean casserole which calls for French fried onions, butter, milk, and cream soup, you can instead make some sautéed green beans with pieces of bacon sprinkled on top. They are still delicious and look like a treat, but are far less fattening overall.
Choose Healthier Desserts
Desserts are another tricky one because Christmas and other holidays are often associated with chocolate, sugar, and other sweet treats. Here are some alternative dessert options that are a little healthier:
Egg nog bites – If your family likes to have fudge or similar sugary bites after Christmas dinner, consider making egg nog bites instead. These are similar to fudge in their consistency and have a yummy egg nog quality, but don’t contain all that sugar in them. There are a lot of excellent recipes out there.
Spiced apples – Skip the apple pie with the buttery crust and large amounts of sugar, and instead make some spiced apples. You can slice up apples, put them in the oven and sprinkle some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg on top. They taste like the filling in apple pie without the fattening crust.
Fruit and whipped topping – For a quick and seasonal dessert option, skip the fruit pie or cheesecake and instead have a bowl of fruit with whipped topping. The kids will still think it is a dessert with that homemade whipped topping, but it will contain winter fruits like cranberries, cherries, apples, and pears.
Be Careful With Holiday Parties
Finally, let’s take a moment to discuss what you are going to do when invited to holiday parties. It isn’t just dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day that you need to be concerned with. You might also be invited to an office party, block parties, or holiday parties friends or loved ones are throwing. This usually means fried appetizers, big meals, and calorie-filled cocktails. If you still want to attend, here are some helpful tips for surviving them without gaining weight.
Choose Your Cocktails Wisely
Cocktails can make or break your holiday weight gain, but many people assume they are no big deal. Even a small cocktail might be packed with calories, especially if it uses fruit juice. When it comes to holiday cocktails, try to stick to ones with more liquor and less fruit juice. Mix your liquor with soda water instead of orange juice, and you have saved yourself 50-100 calories or more in that single glass.
Eat a Healthy Meal Before Attending
If you don’t think you can hold off on all the good food when hungry, then make sure you are full before you arrive. Eat a healthy meal with lots of fruits and veggies before you head to the party so that skipping certain foods is no big deal. You won’t be hungry and won’t feel like you are missing out. You may try a few things, but it really isn’t as big of an issue since you already ate your dinner.
Put Appetizers On a Small Plate
Instead of standing in front of the appetizer table, put the food items on a plate and eat only what you put on there. Don’t ever go for seconds.
Meet New People
Why is meeting new people on the list? Because this gives you a reason to mingle and spend more time socializing at the party instead of standing in front of the buffet table eating away. You can walk around the party the entire time, enjoying conversation, meeting interesting people, and maybe even making lifelong friends. You are getting a bit more exercise and aren’t focused so much on what you are or aren’t eating while at the gathering.