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9 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

9 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Holidays
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 4 min read

With the holiday season coming up soon, you might be a bit more concerned about your health and weight this year. It becomes more and more difficult to lose weight as we age, and it also becomes more important to limit your indulgences during the holidays.

It doesn't mean that you have to suffer the entire time; you can certainly splurge every now and then, but making it a habit during the holidays will almost inevitably result in weight gain. If you are trying to stay healthy during the holiday season, try following these 9 ways to stay healthy during the holidays  which can help win the battle of the holiday season bulge.

Method #1 - Count your calories

Sure it may seem excessive, but when you count your calories up every day during the holidays, you'll be a lot less likely to overeat. Most people eat too much because they aren't thinking about the calories they're consuming, and when you're counting every meal, dessert or snack against your daily total it can be pretty sobering and keep you on the right course. Portions matter a lot when you aren't eating as healthily as you normally do, so be sure to eat under your minimum recommended daily calorie intake. You can look up your basal metabolic rate with any number of calculators online based on your age, sex, weight and height, and this can be helpful if you are trying to figure out your minimum recommended daily calorie requirements.

Method #2 - Weigh yourself regularly

Weighing yourself regularly is always a good idea during the holiday season. Remember that you are probably not going to be eating the healthiest foods all of the time, and weighing yourself on a daily basis is always a good idea to see how your weight is fluctuating. After you use the restroom in your morning, weigh yourself, and keep a mental note of your weight. If you notice that you are gaining more than 1 to 2 pounds, you need to start to scale back on your calorie intake and lower your portions. By weighing yourself every day, you'll be able to track weight gain during the holiday season and it won't just sneak up on you all of a sudden.

Method #3 - Don't go to a holiday party hungry

You're a lot more likely to fill up on junk when you go to a holiday party already hungry. It's a mistake because the chances are that you won't be able to find even one healthy food option, and it forces you to eat whatever is there. You might get away with doing this once or twice during the holidays, but it will quickly catch up with you, as it can be easy to eat several hundreds of calories at a holiday party without thinking much about it, from both high calorie foods and drinks. Your best bet is to eat a healthy snack or two an hour before arriving at a holiday party; that way you'll be able to exercise some restraint, and the more healthy food that you eat ahead of the party the better.

Method #4 - Portion your meals out carefully

As previously mentioned with the calorie counting, you'll need to be extremely careful to portion out your meals appropriately. It may not be that easy to find out the calorie count in the stuffing or casserole that you're about to eat, but you can make a reasonable guess, and if you have any doubt you should stick to small portions. Limit your portion sizes of carbohydrates, starch, and grains to a bare minimum, as a general guideline. However, you can load your plate up with any protein options or veggies that are available, and try to make them the majority of what you're eating with very small portions of carbohydrates or desserts.

Method #5 - Slow down your eating pace

Several studies have found that slowing down your rate of eating is one of the most effective ways to avoid overeating. It takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to register that you've eaten something, and if you start gorging on food during that period of time, you are very likely to eat way too many calories. Eating at a slow pace allows enough time for your brain to register that you've eaten something, and the pace really does make a major difference in the calories that you eat. As an extra bonus, it makes the experience of eating more enjoyable when you take your time, and although you might be munching on a high calorie food, at least you'll enjoy it a little more.

Method #6 - Drink plenty of water with your meals

It's become slightly cliché, but drinking water with every meal can definitely help you reduce your calorie intake during the holidays. Drinking about 16 ounces of water, or one large glass, about 30 minutes before your meals can reduce the number of calories that you eat during that meal. It's easy to grab a glass of water before eating and you should also be sure to continue drinking water during your meal.

Method #7 - Be careful with desserts

Ideally you should avoid desserts altogether during the holidays but this really isn't pragmatic for most people. You can still be picky about desserts, and being selective is definitely a good idea. Limit your dessert indulgences to small portions, and try to find desserts that are made with fruit and low fat ingredients. Smoothies are a great option for a dessert during the holidays and there are plenty of holiday themed recipes to choose from. Dark chocolate is one sweet dessert that you can enjoy with less guilt, as it at least has several beneficial compounds and antioxidants that are good for you in spite of the sugar. Try to avoid any desserts that are made with a lot of refined sugar or grains.

Method #8 - Bring your own meal

If you're going to a potluck, it's the perfect opportunity to break your own healthy meal. At the very least you'll know that you have at least one healthy meal option available, and if other people had the same thought process as you then consider yourself lucky. You don't want to be stuck at a holiday party without a single option for a low carb meal, so take advantage of the opportunity to cook during the holidays when you can. There are several low calorie, low carb or low fat variations of traditional holiday recipes that you can experiment with, and it can be fun to see what you can come up with.

Method #9 - Don't drink your calories

It's definitely a good idea to try to limit the number of calories that you get from liquid sources during the holidays; avoid eggnog, juice, wine and alcoholic drinks as much as possible since they are a source of "€œempty calories"€ that you can quickly load up on without thinking much about it. Coffee with a bit of milk or a small amount of cream and no sugar, or tea with stevia, or just plain regular or carbonated water are far better options for beverages and they won't add extra calories.

If you're going to enjoy a few unhealthy meals it's not going to hurt you a lot, but when you add the calories from alcohol, juice or other unhealthy drinks, the effect can spiral out of control really quickly. Keep your weight under control this holiday season by drinking zero calorie stevia sweetened or unsweetened beverages as much as possible and you'll have more calories to work with for the foods that you really enjoy.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.