Health & Fitness

Health Tips: Celebrate the Season Without the Weight Gain

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Maintaining your weight during the holiday season is tough, what with all that rich, heavy food around. Tiffanie Young, of Centegra Health System, offers pointers on how to eat smart and have fun.

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The holiday season is a time to enjoy with family and friends. Unfortunately, the season’s parties and special events also put food center stage. From easy-to-munch appetizers to rich, sugar-coated desserts, there’s plenty of temptation.

Studies show that the average American gains 1 to 2 pounds by New Year’s, but a little planning can avoid that extra weight. All it takes is knowing your body’s needs, habits and weaknesses.

Tiffanie Young is a registered dietitian, licensed dietitian nutritionist, diabetes educator and program coordinator at Centegra Health System’s Diabetes Centers in Crystal Lake, Huntley and Woodstock. Young encourages smart eating habits that can lighten your holiday meals and still allow you to enjoy the season.

1. Know Your Pitfalls

When it comes to establishing healthy eating habits, there’s no single regimen to follow, says Young. Everyone has their weak spots, and acknowledging your own will help you avoid those future temptations.

“Each of us has a food that we are more likely to have less control with or to overeat,” Young says. “If cookies are your pitfall, then don’t bake three dozen cookies and have them in your home. It comes down to really being mindful of what your triggers are.”

2. Create Realistic Goals

Having an attainable, specific objective will help you stay on track, but it should be tailored to your individual lifestyle and needs.
“If you’re trying to lose weight on your own, setting a goal to maintain your weight throughout the holidays is more achievable and a better way to go,” says Young.

Start by establishing rules for yourself before the parties begin. If you plan to sample appetizers, commit to only filling your plate one time, Young suggests. It will force you to be more mindful of what can often be mindless eating.

Moderation should always be used over extreme tactics, too. Don’t skip a meal to save room for the party spread.

“When you skip a meal and then go to a party, you’ll actually consume more calories and overcompensate,” Young says. “Studies show that it’s not a good approach or strategy.”

3. Arrive Prepared

“Many people lose time for exercise and home-cooked meals during the winter months,” says Young. “By researching nutritious options before you’re on the go, you can avoid overindulging at restaurants and drive-throughs.”

But it can still be tempting to pick up that peppermint mocha during your holiday shopping or try the fattening turkey stuffing at a dinner party. Instead, pack some healthy snacks or bring a healthy dish to share. You can relax knowing you’ll have at least one healthy option at every outing.

4. Indulge Creatively

By knowing a few handy substitutes, you can cut some of the fat and sugar from your favorite dishes. Most recipes can be modified by replacing refined sugar, white flour, butter, eggs or oil with things like applesauce, bananas, flax meal or whole-wheat flour. These ingredients cut calories and add nutritional value.

“One of my family’s favorites is the butternut squash macaroni and cheese bake,” says Young. “It’s the comfort food that my family loves, but the primary ingredient giving it that buttery, cheesey flavor and creamy consistency is the butternut squash, rather than the high-fat cheese.”

5. Focus on the Heart of the Holidays

Look past your frustrations with food and remember that your loved ones are the reason for the celebration.

“I think the most important thing is knowing the parties should be about the people and not the food,” says Young. “Enjoy the food, but don’t use the holidays as an extended excuse to overeat.”

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