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Holiday Survival: Enjoy Your Favorite Foods Without Weight Gain

By Amanda Turner MS, RD, CSSD | November 6, 2015

Yes, you CAN eat pie over the holidays without gaining weight! It’s no secret that most people gain anywhere from 2 to 10lbs over the holidays. This is not the “norm” and you can avoid it with a few tips. Is it easy? Not necessarily. But if you pay attention and follow a few key strategies, you can end your year at the same weight you are now (or maybe even less!). Follow these tips for holiday weight maintenance:

Put it on a plate

If you pick it up and throw it into your mouth, it doesn’t even count, right??? Many of us fall into the trap of mindless grazing and think we’ve had one or two cookies, when in reality we’ve had eight. No matter what food you choose this holiday season, put it on a plate and eat it with your meal. By sticking with all of your food on one plate, you maximize enjoyment and minimize chances of an expanding waistline. This does mean you will have to adjust your portion of each food for them all to fit on your plate without piling up.

Enjoy your favorites and healthy foods

Hey, I didn’t say you could just eat pie and cookies all day and not gain weight. There still has to be a balance. Fill your plate with veggies, fruit, lean protein, and some of your favorites. What’s that? You say your family doesn’t serve veggies? Have a salad before you go or bring some steamed, seasoned veggies with you. It’s that easy! The volume of the vegetables will help with tip #3.

Honor your hunger and fullness

Slow down when you eat. I’m just as guilty as others in that Thanksgiving meal has become a food eating contest for me in the past. I end up eating too much, too fast and miserable for the night. Don’t be that person! Enjoy your friends and family. Talk with them and make it a rule that you don’t talk with your mouth full. Eat slowly, and recognize when you’re starting to hit the comfortably full point. . . Not the “I need to unbutton my pants” point! I promise you there will be plenty of leftovers, and you will eat those foods again. Giving yourself permission to eat those foods again at the point that you feel hungry, can help reduce overeating.

Spend time with friends/family in a different way

Remember that the holidays are a time to enjoy the loved ones in your life. Instead of spending it around the table, what if you tried going for a walk, playing a game, or watching a movie together. Think outside of the box, and incorporate events that revolve around activity rather than food.

Exchange caloric beverages

As much as I’d like to tell you to stay away from alcohol, I know it happens, and you need to know how to manage it. Alcohol is high calorie. Period. A 5oz glass of wine, a 12oz light beer and 1.5oz liquor (no mixer) are all approximately 120 calories. Liquids do not create satiety like food, especially when consumed with a meal. Plus, when consumed in excess, alcohol stimulates appetite. If you’re going to drink, it is best to keep it to 1 for women (portions listed above) and 2 for men. Try reducing your carbohydrate portion on your plate by 1/8th of the plate to accommodate your drink.

Get your mind right

This is probably the most important piece for the holidays. Let’s face it, it can be stressful planning and attending events. And when food tastes good, it can be very easy to overeat. Recognize the reasons you are eating, and put strategies in place to only eat when you are hungry. If you notice that you’re eating out of boredom, stress, social situations, or any other emotion, step back and ask yourself “what do I really need”. Usually the answer isn’t chocolate! If you’re stressed, remove yourself from the situation. If you’re bored, find something to do. Recognize why you’re eating and redirect if it isn’t out of hunger. In short, be mindful, thankful and see the positive this holiday season.

If all else fails, create accountability

Accountability can be made in many ways. You can track your food intake to increase awareness about the amount and volume of food you're eating. You can talk with a supportive friend or family member about your nutrition. You can hire a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer to help you plan proper meals and exercise, and hold you accountable throughout the season. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it!