'Tis the season but let's try not to get jiggly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. The holiday season is synonymous with eating, drinking, spending time with family and friends, and being merry. But did you know that a traditional turkey dinner consists of approximately 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat? And that's before all those family brunches and late-night leftover snacking sessions. We've all done it. With all those extra calories and with the fact that exercising is usually forgotten until it is time to plan your New Year's Resolutions, it is no surprise that one might pack on a few extra pounds as a holiday season memento.
Don't despair! Warding off the weight gain is possible without saying no to grandma's famous pecan pie. Here are some holiday tips to enjoy your parties and dinners without the guilt:
1. Don't go to a party hungry. There is truth to the saying "I'm so hungry I can eat a horse." Hunger clouds your mind and can cause you to crave for high calorie, high fat, comfort foods to satiate you. Munch on a small snack such as low-fat yogurt before going to your holiday gathering. Not being ravenous will make you more likely to choose healthy options and not stuff yourself while still enjoying. Spoil your appetite!
2. Stay active. When you take your usual hectic schedule and combine it with gift shopping and social gatherings, there is little time for working out. Make it a priority - even if you have to shorten it. And remember, working out also warms you up. So as the temperatures get colder, you do not have to sit in front of the fireplace or under the covers drinking hot chocolate to stay warm. Go for a group walk after your meal or play a softball or football game.
3. Bring it on. It is difficult to predict what will be served at a holiday party. Instead of being forced to eat an unhealthy array of foods or look like you are fasting, consider calling the host ahead of time to see if you can bring a (healthy) dish. It's thoughtful, and it gives you and other guests a healthy option! On the flip side, if you are hosting, try and whip up something diet friendly for your guests who are trying to watch their weight!
4. Watch out for calories in alcohol. Why does everything that is fun have to be filled with tons of calories? A glass of wine contains approximately 125 calories, a martini 130 calories, a margarita 168 calories, and beer 153 calories. When you add sweet mixtures or creamy liqueurs these calories increase exponentially. Additionally, alcohol lowers your inhibitions making you less likely to steer clear of calorie traps or avoid overeating.
5. Indulge but keep it under control. "Sample" those fun holiday delights so you do not feel deprived. Don't be afraid of the creamy mashed potatoes, fried turkey, and grandma's pecan pie that she spent hours making - just indulge in moderation. Rely on the healthier choices such as salads, veggies, and lean meats to fill you up. If your party is going buffet style, try grabbing a smaller plate-there's less room to keep piling on the food, plus it'll look like there's more in front of you as you eat!
6. Take your time. It takes your body 20 minutes to realize that you are full. During that lag time, you may become victim to overindulging and accumulating calories. To prevent this, eat slowly and enjoy your food's aroma and taste - talk to family and friends every few bites. Isn't that what the holidays are about anyway? Remember Aesop's fable of the Tortoise and the Hare? The lesson that "the race is not to the swift" also applies to eating at holiday parties.
By eating smart and staying active during the holiday season you can avoid packing on those pesky pounds that tend to carry over to the next year, all while enjoying the festivities. You can gobble, gobble on those once a year treats, but do it wisely, slowly, and in moderation. Follow these tips to enjoy your holiday season, and still fit into that amazing dress you have picked out for New Year's Eve! Happy Holidays!
Dr Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions on general medical topics to her at firstname.lastname@example.org