Did you know the average person gains anywhere from one to five pounds during the weeks between Halloween and New Years? Furthermore, according to a study from Cornell University, it takes most people five months to take the weight back off! That doesn’t seem fair… Months of effort required to erase a few weeks of indulging? There is a better, painless way to enjoy the festive foods of the holiday season, without the dreaded weight gain.
Everyone loves the familiar, traditional foods that accompany our favorite holidays. Food is very much a language of family, love, and nostalgia, which should not be forgotten! However, rather than spending the entire season eating rich, comfort foods, try limiting your “indulging” to a few days. It’s rarely one day of eating that packs on the pounds. In fact, most people are shocked to find that the day after Thanksgiving (the most caloric day of the year) they didn’t gain a single pound! Why? It takes time for your body to digest an overwhelmingly large amount of food, then create fat cells from the excess calories. When you eat all that food in one sitting your body simply can’t keep up. Instead, the more likely culprit of the holiday “spare tire” is the constant overconsumption of booze, chocolates, appetizers, and Christmas cookies that we are bombarded with all season long. Work parties, neighborhood get-togethers, family traditions, and friendly “treat-gifting” provide the perfect environment for excess calories to be eaten all day, every day.
Completely abstaining from holiday fare might be one tactic, but not one that is as enjoyable or easy as following the tips below. Here is a list of things you can do to help you stay on course during the holidays that so quickly derail a healthy diet!
1. Indulge on major holidays, but keep it to one meal
Holidays are meant to be enjoyed! Choose to eat your favorite stuffing recipe on Thanksgiving, and enjoy it! Just don’t hoard it in a Tupperware and eat it for the next 5 days along with a few leftover rolls and pie…one day of indulgence is fine, a week’s worth will take its toll.
2. Be choosy with treats
Eat your favorite (or maybe even just a half a serving of your favorite) then toss the others. Treats that are left around the house eventually get eaten, even if they are some of the less-desirables. If you love your grandma’s fudge, eat one piece then give the rest away. If the office party gave you leftover cookies, brownies, and chocolates, choose one thing and leave the rest. This tells your brain that you are still allowed to have an occasional treat and won’t bring up feelings of deprivation or “off limit foods” that commonly lead to binging.
3. Stay active, even in the winter
It’s helpful to get yourself into some exercise clothes and boost endorphins, or “feel good chemicals” from a little extra activity. It helps you feel energized, refocused, and helps you from seeking a mood boost from comfort foods. Bundle up and get outside with the ones you love. Going on a walk after eating will also help you from the constant grazing/snacking that usually occurs after holiday meals, not to mention burn off a few extra calories!
4. Swap a few of your standard holiday recipes with healthier alternatives
Not only will you feel better, you might find a new recipe that you, and your family really enjoy! Nothing beats a healthy holiday treat that keeps returning every year! Here are a few healthy but delicious swaps:
Being healthy for the holidays is not impossible and can actually be quite enjoyable if you know when to indulge and when to say no to a bigger belt! For more ideas about healthier holiday fare using leftovers that are commonly on hand during the holidays, try the recipes below!
Asian Salad with Leftover Turkey and Green Beans
Cheesy Potato Puffs