Most of us love the holidays. It means spending time with family and friends, putting up festive decorations at home, and enjoying an overall sense of coziness, happiness and togetherness. The holiday season also means lots of eating and drinking. Which is great. Except when it’s not. Hello, holiday weight gain.
So how can you celebrate the holidays without gaining so much weight that you feel uncomfortable? Well, there are some basic guidelines that will help you not go overboard.
While there’s no room for body shaming (or shame in indulging during this special time of year), you also don’t want to wreck your health just for the sake of loading up on sugar cookies, hot chocolate, and peppermint lattes.
Here are some tried-and-true steps that will help you remain in control while still celebrating all season long. Healthy holidays!
Be realistic about holiday weight gain.
Instead of trying to lose weight during the holidays, make it your goal to simply maintain your weight. This way, you can keep yourself on track without going crazy counting calories or stressing about gaining any extra pounds. The main thing is you want to feel good and try to keep your sugar intake as low as possible.
Squeeze in some time for exercise.
If you commute to work, take a little walk during your lunch break at least a few times a week. (If you’re not in the middle of a blizzard, of course.) If you live in an area where the weather sucks, you can stay indoors and either march or walk in place.
Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but sitting all day is definitely no joke for your health. You could also forgo some of your online shopping and park farther away in the parking lot during your holiday shopping. You’ll relieve stress and keep your metabolism going.
Don’t go starving to the party.
Before a holiday soiree, have a light snack such as hummus with crudité or a handful of mixed nuts to avoid unwanted holiday weight gain. You won’t feel as tempted by all the food if you’re already somewhat satisfied when you get to your holiday office party or other celebrations.
Curb your (eating) enthusiasm.
Just because it’s all-you-can-eat doesn’t mean you should. Choose more veggies and lean proteins rather than salty chips and sugar-laden cookies and snacks to avoid holiday weight gain. Yes, that’s usually easier said than done, but seriously. Don’t load up on food just because it’s there — you have the rest of your life to eat.
Think before you drink.
If you can’t imagine partying without booze, try opting for lower-calorie spirits like vodka or enjoy a glass of red wine, which actually has some health benefits.
Also, keep in mind that just because it’s alcohol-free doesn’t mean you’re scot-free — a lot of mocktails and fruity drinks are loaded with sugar and calories. (And let’s not forget hot cocoa and all those holiday Starbucks lattes.) A great alternative when you feel like soda: Try Waterloo sparkling water, which is robust, comes in different natural flavors, and has zero sodium and calories.
Don’t beat yourself up.
You can almost guarantee you’re going to overeat at least once during the holidays. If you do, don’t freak out. Overdoing it on a meal or two does not mean you’ll end up with holiday weight gain. Just go lighter on the next meal. This is a good way to try to balance yourself both mentally and physically.
Remember: It takes 500 calories per day above what you normally eat to gain a pound, so eating that extra cookie isn’t going to do you in.
Add more vegan options to holiday cooking.
When baking your favorite sugar cookies, cakes or even savory dishes (like stuffing), try using butter alternatives. Earth Balance “butter” tastes exactly like real butter but without all the fat or cholesterol. Also, non-dairy milks are usually lower in calories than dairy milk.
If you’re making tamales, do not use lard (gross) and opt for veggie fillings instead of meat; you can also just include less meat and add more veggies. Mushrooms are an awesome replacement for meat — scientific studies have even found that people who swapped mushrooms for meat lost weight and gained nutrients.
The bottom line: Simple ingredient swaps go a long way to make your holiday recipes healthier and help you avoid holiday weight gain.
What are some of YOUR tips for not gaining extra weight during the holidays? Leave your comments below!
Lifestyle writer Mar Yvette is on a mission to bring you the best people, places and products to make your life pop!