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Maneuvering Through the Holidays

MAC Nutrition Team - Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Last month we covered some suggestions for getting the right mindset in place for maintaining your weight during the holidays.  In this section, we focus on basic strategies to help you manage the multitude of holiday parties, dinners, and events while keeping your health goals in mind.

Adjust your Exercise Routine
  • Adding small increases to your daily workouts can help ward off any holiday weight gain and help you manage holiday stress to boot!  Make it a goal to squeeze in an extra 10-minutes of activity throughout the day, or work in a little extra time on those days you have a big event.
Don’t forget your breakfast!  
  • Research has shown repeatedly that people who regularly eat a healthy breakfast end up consuming fewer calories throughout the day, in addition to having more energy, better concentration, and a revved-up metabolism!
Eat and hydrate beforehand
  • Hydrating well and having a light soup, some fruit, or a simple salad before going to an event has been shown to reduce one’s overall caloric intake and help avoid the likelihood of over-indulging once there.
Wear comfortable but slightly fitted clothing
  • Avoid wearing stretchy clothing which can make it difficult to gauge when you’ve eaten too much.
Survey the Buffet First
  • With so much to choose from, first decide what you really want to have, then make sure to plate your choices.  Mindless nibbling from passing hors-d'oeuvre trays or endless grazing at the buffet table will guarantee you pack on more calories than you planned for. Keeping track of your plates or appetizer toothpicks can be an easy way to monitor how much you’ve eaten.
Focus on lighter appetizers
  • Pairing low-fat dips such as hummus or a white bean spread with crudités of cut-up vegetables, tomato salsas or reduced fat cheeses with whole grain chips or crackers, or opting for fresh fruit, shrimp cocktail, etc. will provide good sources of protein and fiber while tackling your pre-dinner snacking urges. 
Stick with lean proteins
  • Lean protein choices such as skinless poultry or seafood (without rich or creamy sauces), low-fat dairy, and bean or legume options will keep you satisfied longer and make controlling overall intake much easier.
Manage your portions
  • The research shows we tend to eat what we’re served!  So, by using a smaller plate such as a salad plate at the buffet, you’ll be able to control your portions and save room for dessert.  Moving away from the buffet table may also help you avoid reaching for seconds.
Watch the beverages
  • Decide in advance how much alcohol or holiday eggnog, etc. you’ll drink and stick to your plan.  Too much alcohol can lower your inhibitions and increase your hunger. Interspersing low-calorie beverages, sparkling waters, or spritzers can help you keep those liquid calories at bay. 
Use the ‘few bites’ rule-of-thumb
  • Let’s face it, the holidays are a time when we get to have the treats we typically don’t see during the rest of the year, so of course, we all want to enjoy ourselves.  That said most people can deviate from their normal daily intake by only a few hundred calories without gaining weight.

  • Having a few small bites from a couple of desserts vs. eating one dessert in its entirety will allow you the flexibility to enjoy the event and feel satisfied, too.  Now that’s what you call having your cake and eating it too!
If you don’t ‘love it’, leave it!
  • Just because you put something on your plate, doesn’t mean you have to finish it.  If you’ve over-served yourself, or if you don’t like it, just leave it.
Wait and Assess
  • If after eating you’re still hungry, resist the urge to go back for more without waiting at least 20 minutes.  It takes this long for your brain to register that you are comfortably full.  If you are indeed still hungry after 20 minutes, try having some fruit or more vegetables, and drink plenty of water.  The fruit often takes care of any residual ‘sweet’ cravings, and water fills you up and ensures you’re not just dehydrated.

Finally, remind yourself that a single indulgent meal is not going to set you back.  Sometimes having a successful holiday season is as simple as being more mindful and doing one small thing differently than you might have done in the past.

Happy Holidays!


Today's holiday-survival post is from Julie Jacobsen, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Program Director at The Mount Auburn Club.

Want to learn more about how we can help? Contact the MAC Nutrition team today!


The information presented here is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or health condition. As always, please speak with your registered dietitian regarding any dietary modifications or nutrition-related questions.