With visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, it can be hard to eat healthy during Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa! Don’t jingle all the weight – with these tips to healthy eating for Christmas you can avoid holiday weight gain. Yes, simple changes in your behavior works, according to the Winter Weight Watch Study. In the study, a group of over 270 adults were successful at avoiding weight gain over Christmas, after being coached on weight management tips, and had their favorite holiday indulgences put into perspective. Would you like a taste of that perspective? A slice of pumpkin pie has the same amount of saturated fat as 5 slices of bacon. Yikes!
No matter what holiday you celebrate, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, these healthy eating tips can help you be merry and bright, without your pants feeling tight.
Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Each year, the average person gains a small amount of weight. But, it’s the holidays, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving in the United States, that are responsible for most of our annual weight gain. In fact, during Christmas, statistics show the average person gains 1 to 2 pounds. Here are 5 healthy eating tips for Christmas that’s help keep your holidays merry and light.
1. Be Realistic
If your goal is weight loss, be realistic about what you will achieve over the holidays. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, it’s a marathon of parties littered with piles of indulgent, unhealthy foods. You’re not perfect, and that’s okay. You may indulge in a few treats or miss a workout. It’s important to remember that the key to feeling successful on your health journey is to set achievable goals.
2. Indulge, a Little
Indulge a little, it’s Christmas! If your favorite food item at Christmas is the stuffing, then have a little. Enjoy it! But, then skip the bread and desserts. Putting the holidays into perspective, “there are 360 days that don’t include Christmas, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving… enjoy the food, but be very picky,” notes Kimberly Gomer, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center. The best way to enjoy the holidays is to have a plan, and to be mindful. It’s okay to indulge a little.
Can I Indulge and have a Healthy Christmas?
Yes! “There’s a difference between enjoying yourself and going crazy with the eating,” notes Gomer. Enjoy a little! And, remember a healthy lifestyle includes being active. There are so many festive outdoor activities you can do with your loved ones over Christmas:
- Carve up some giggles while you ice skate.
- Connect with a loved one on the cross-country skiing trails.
- Get outside and chop firewood – that’ll warm you up!
- Sing it loud for all to hear – get outside and enjoy some caroling.
3. Plant It
When in doubt, turnip the beets. Jokes aside, reaching for plants is a great tip when faced with a large buffet of tempting unhealthy foods. It’s not fun when you realize that what started as a casual bite of an artery-clogging delight, lead to a handful of blood sugar spiking treats, and turned into a lot of unhealthy eating. Before you head out to the next celebration, fill up on plants. Eating a salad, or a bowl of healthy soup, beforehand can help you feel satisfied, and in control of your hunger. Even when you’re in a rush, you can be successful – grab a quick piece of portable fruit, such as a pear.
4. Make it a Party
Healthy eating over Christmas is much easier when done with others. Most people around you will also want to eat healthy; a survey found 63% of Americans try to eat healthy most of the time. Make it a party! Share these eating tips for Christmas with your loved ones. The fresh, flavorful, vegetable-filled dishes always disappear quickly at holiday gatherings. Perhaps suggest a healthy-eating theme to this year’s holiday potluck? Or, make plans to go sledding or for a hike. “I really believe people who eat healthy together, exercise together, stay together – it keeps them closer,” notes Dr. Coral Arvon, Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Center.
5. Toast Your Health
Raise a glass and toast your health. Be mindful of what is in your cup. One of the most helpful healthy eating tips for Christmas is to fill your glass with water, particularly if you are trying to avoid weight gain. If water isn’t exciting enough, try a delicious and festive glass of sparkling water infused with slices of pear and a cinnamon stick. Skipping alcoholic drinks may also help you avoid holiday weight gain – studies show alcohol, sort of, turns on hunger signals in the brain. Also, be wary of the non-alcoholic holiday drinks. From eggnog to hot chocolate, many drinks can be deceivingly calorie dense. That being said, don’t count your calories! At Pritikin, we don’t count calories, because the truth about counting calories is, it’s the wrong way to lose weight. It leaves you feeling hungry and deprived. At Pritikin, you discover how eating lots of healthy foods, being active, and keeping a positive mindset is the perfect recipe for a happier, healthier you.
Have a holly, jolly Christmas this year! Set realistic goals, and reach them with the support of those around you. You can do this by reaching for vegetables as much as possible, and truly raising a glass to your health.
- Effectiveness of a brief behavioural intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2018; 363.
- The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight. Physiol Behav2014;134:66-9.
- Agrp neuron activity is required in alcohol-induced overeating. Nature Communications Jan 2017; 8: 14014.