Eat Well to Be Well: Stave off winter weight gain with these expert tips

Beginning with Halloween candy and ending with a New Year’s Eve toast, the last months of the year can challenge even the most disciplined weight watcher. By the time the New Year arrives, you may feel heavier, yet in reality most people have not packed on as many pounds as they think.

The average American gains about one to two pounds during the six-week stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This doesn’t sound like much unless you gain that extra one to two pounds year after year, without losing it. Before you know it, in 10 years you could easily be 10 to 20 pounds heavier. Here’s the rub – this extra weight gain can be harmful to your waistline while increasing your risk for serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or joint problems.

So, how can you enjoy the holiday’s festivities and delicious food without sabotaging your waistline? Even though this time of year is filled with fatty and sugary treats, the truth is you can continue to make good food choices. Follow the expert tips below. They’ll point you in the right direction, allowing you to still revel in this beautiful season while avoiding holiday weight gain:

Practice the 90/10 rule – A simple trick to use year-round that can change how you eat forever. Ninety percent of the time, eat healthy along with exercise. But give yourself 10 percent wiggle room. Have a small indulgence here and there. No one can eat perfectly 100 percent of the time. It’s okay to enjoy and savor holiday treats, just make sure the majority of time you are focusing on healthy foods.

Prevent meal skipping – It may sound like a good idea to save your appetite for a holiday party later in the day but that plan can backfire. Likely by the time the party rolls around, you’re cranky and tired besides being ravenously hungry. Arriving at a party on an empty stomach only spells disaster – you’ll likely end up eating more calories than the ones you skipped earlier in the day. Instead, eat breakfast, a light lunch and before leaving the house, have a snack of fiber-filled foods. Fiber helps you feel full preventing you from overeating. Choose foods with minimal calories such as crisp, fresh vegetables, fruit, a small salad, nuts, or a small bowl of oatmeal.

Eat small amounts of food you love – Holiday meals are tricky. Often served buffet style loaded with tantalizing foods, it’s easy to go back for seconds and thirds. Before filling your plate, check out the food selection first. Decide which foods you really must have and which ones you can walk on by. It’s okay to choose small portions of items like cookies, pie or chocolates, but fill up the majority of your plate – at least three-fourths – with healthy vegetables, fruit, whole grains crackers, cheese, and lean meats.

Pace yourself – Resist the urge to pile your plate high with food, eating it rapidly and then going back for seconds. Slow down. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is full. Set your fork down between bites, chewing food thoroughly and sip some water. Sit down while you eat. Enjoy the company of the people around you at the event. Engaging in stimulating conversation is a great way to avoid overeating. And, if you find yourself standing next to the counter or buffet table where all the irresistible food is displayed, move. Face or sit away from the food table. As they say – out of sight, out of mind.

Keep physically active – Here’s a secret to successfully controlling or even losing weight during the holiday season – maintain an active exercise routine each day. Cold winter weather doesn’t have to slow you down. In fact, embrace it. Going outdoors for an invigorating brisk walk can get your heart pumping, muscles moving while giving you an energy boost. Plus, you’ll burn extra calories due to your body compensating for heat loss. If exercising in frigid weather is not for you, join a gym or exercise class, invest in a treadmill or elliptical, lift dumbbells, or play music to get you moving. Any extra movement you do throughout the day adds up.

Weight control can be a reality this holiday season

The holidays are meant to enjoy taking in the beautiful sights and sounds. Food is a big part of the celebration of this time of year. As long as you make careful food choices and stay physically active, you can get through it without little to any weight gain. Enjoy the foods you do eat and remember the most important thing is the time spent with family and friends during this beautiful season.


Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institutional management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for local clinics, an adjunct professor at an area community college where she teaches basic nutrition, and a freelance health and nutrition writer. She is the author of The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science On Food’s Power For Protecting The Brain From Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook. Visit her website at www.eatwelltobewellrd.com.


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