Nutrition Articles

10 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Are You Beginning to Look a Lot Like Santa?

I don’t want to be the Grinch who stole Christmas dinner, but we have to ask. Just when did holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas morph from messages of love and giving to ones of food and gorging?

Whether it’s one, three or seven pounds, experience says that most of us will gain weight between now and New Year’s Day. So it bears repeating that moderation is the key to enjoying a fun and healthy holiday season.

This year, shake off the ghosts of food-crammed Christmases past! Fill up instead on family and friendship rather than food and feasting. Make a concerted effort to fill your heart with love—not cholesterol—and you’ll start the New Year with a brighter outlook instead of a desperate resolve to shed pounds!

So, in the tradition of giving, I'm offering you a very special gift: the 10 ways to avoid holiday weight gain. It’s one size fits all, so feast your eyes on this easy-to-follow advice before you feast on that second slice of Aunt Edna’s holiday pie.

  1. Keep your eye on the prize…a slimmer you! Mindful snacking is one way to weigh less without stress. Mindless snacking will prevent the weight loss you’re working so hard to accomplish.
  2. Imbibe with caution. Alcohol accomplishes two negatives: extra calories without nutrition, and a relaxing of inhibitions. You need all your willpower to resist the cheese dips and fried snacks, so staying sober is a good strategy. Check out these diet-friendly alcohol choices for more tips.
  3. Don't go wild. Hey, it’s a party! So it is. Enjoy a beer, glass of wine, or even a cocktail (made with club soda or diet soda, of course). Spend the rest of the party walking around with a full glass of club soda with lime. Keeping your hands occupied accomplishes two purposes: first, the hosts will not ask if you need a drink (you have one), and second, it’s harder to eat with one hand wrapped around a glass.
  4. Host your own party. Cocktail parties are so easy to make healthy. Too many hosts toss together a menu of fried foods, fatty cheeses, greasy chips and snacks, and unlimited nuts. There are plenty of great alternatives like grilled chicken and crudités with yogurt dip, baked chips and pretzels. Get more healthy party food ideas.
  5. Stay active. Nothing helps your reach (and maintain) a healthy weight like physical activity. If you’re like most, holidays keep you busier than ever, leaving you with less time for yourself. If you don’t have time to get to the gym, stay fit by walking daily. Get up 15 minutes earlier than usual and walk briskly. Repeat just before dinner.
  6. Make the reservations. Social obligations often mean dining out. But if you pick the restaurant, you’re guaranteed to be able to eat healthfully. Choose an establishment that offers a variety of foods so everyone is guaranteed to find something they enjoy. Use these dining out tips to keep it healthy.
  7. Choose to lose. Many people feel that if they don’t partake in the holiday feasting tradition, others will perceive them as rude or ungrateful. Hey, it’s your diet, your way. You have the right to eat what you want, where you want and in the amount you want.
  8. Just say NO…tactfully! You can say to your host, "Oh, I’m sorry. My plan doesn’t include (name the food) but, I surely thank you!" Or, "Oh, thank you so much, I’m sure it’s wonderful! I’m too full right now, but thanks for asking!" Firmly exercise your right of refusal, but be sure to graciously thank your host for offering.
  9. Prepare for a party and take the edge off your appetite. Eat a small, healthy snack before the party. A half-sandwich of turkey in a whole-wheat pita stuffed with sprouts and tomatoes will fuel you nicely. Then, at the party, you can pick and choose wisely without being driven by hunger.
  10. Get support. Sometimes you just need to talk to a friend or buddy, and get some support and motivation to resist the holiday temptations. Post on the message boards, call a friend, or bring along your diet buddy for emotional support!
Here's to a healthy holiday season!

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Member Comments

  • It's never too late to make a healthy choice.
    If you're going to a pot luck or appetizer party, bring something you can eat that fits in your plan. Nobody watches what you put on your plate, but it's easier to resist the temptations if you are happy with your own contribution to the party.

    You'd be surprised at how many times people have thanked me for bringing the veggie platter, or the fruit salad, instead of the sour cream dip or fried mozzarella sticks.
    If only telling us these "tips" for the past 50 years really did some good!! 96 % of people will still enjoy the holidays and wind up cutting back in January. Has nothing to do with "sanity" or anything else............. is what it is, no more guilt trips please.
  • Good timing; good sane advice that is much needed.
  • Thank you for the reminder. Today, I made our families' Christmas lasagna with low fat cottage cheese, reduced fat mozzerella, little ground pork instead of sausage, and ground chuck. For the sauce I used low sodium canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce. I used whole wheat lasagna noodles, I wanted to add spinach-but Erik vetoed that idea.
    Next time!)
    Thank you so much for the reminder that we really can get through these holidays with still being able to maintain or even lose some weight! Whoo-Hoo!!
  • Thank you! What great tips for holiday party survival! I made sure I saved a copy...I will refer to it often.
    Last night we trudged through the snow to our neighbors’ home for a casual dinner. About an hour before we left I enjoyed my daily popcorn and my weekend treat, a homemade latte with half a packet of hot cocoa mix added to make it mocha-y.

    Snack Benefits: While I was shoveling in my popcorn I wondered, “Why am I eating this now, before a dinner out?” Little did I know how helpful that huge snack was going to be as the evening unfolded.

    We settled down to eat about an hour after we arrived. By then, my popcorn had shrunk back to its original, kernel size and I wasn’t feeling too full. The caffeine in the latte perked me up enough to pay attention to nice decorations around the house for complimenting the hostess. I was keeping my brain, and my mouth, busy with constructive activities rather than noshing.

    Politeness Counts: Since we live in the South, I have gotten accustomed to strictly following the guideline of not picking up my fork until the hostess does the same. For this meal, I consciously stopped eating when the hostess or her husband told a story or otherwise paused in their meal. This helped me pace my food intake in a way that didn’t seem to draw attention to my slow eating. It also helped me avoid the awkward situation of having an empty plate and not returning to the buffet for seconds, like the rest of the dinner party eventually did.

    If the host’s story was especially long I would sip from my water glass, while listening attentively and thinking of questions to ask.

    During dessert I continued the same slow pace and the hot tea accompanying dessert helped stretch out the rate of eating, as the guys went back for seconds.

    Resolve: During Christmas and New Years I hope to continue these strategies as well as my other favorites—bringin
    g healthy, low cal/point dishes to share and avoiding empty calories by choosing only water, coffee or tea at parties.
  • You missed "change your expectations for treats in your own home." We used to fill our house with 7 kinds of cookies, two kinds of cake, toffee, fudge, Chex Mix, spiced nuts, pralines and endless other food treats - starting baking and prep in late October!! Three years ago, as a family, we decided on the 2 things that we couldn't live without - a traditional family coffee cake for Christmas morning and Chex mix (jugging the recipe to reduce the oil) and make those only.

    This will be the 3rd year in a row that my husband and I will maintain our weight over the holiday season.
  • Good article. My immediate family, consisting ofmy wonderful husband, 3 grown daughters and their spouses and my 14 yr. old daughter hosted our anual Family and Friends Christmas Get Together. We had a nice hall, loads of food and around 60 wonderful people. I had prepared myself to stay on plan and was able to do so. I ate roast beef that was cooked to perfection and a tasty salad. Thank God I have a made up mind on this journey. I decided not to "diet," but to change my lifestyle. My grandson told his mom that he sure did like this "lifestyle change eating." Be prepared ahead of time by knowing what you will choose, have plenty of water and diet soda. If you fall off the hose, just get up, brush the dust off and keep on keeping on. We can do it!!!
  • These are great tips. I think I'm ready for the challenge :)
  • The point about keeping something in your hands to drink (calorie free water) is a point that I certainly have found to be the most helpful at high caloric parties. Not only is it healthful--it fills me up and reminds me of my goals I have set for life. The more water I drink the less the gravitational pull of the high fat snacks.
  • Oh, last year as a Sparker I only lost 2# during the whole holiday season, but this year I'm going to do MUCH better, because I don't have the SUGAR cravings like I did. Thanks for the article. This is the toughest time of the year.
  • I know these are suppose to be holiday tips but I could really use these all year round.
  • sure will me making use of this during the holidays

About The Author

John McGran John McGran
During his 25-year writing and editing career, John has written for several newspapers, magazines and websites.