12 Tips on How to Diet During the Holidays and Still Enjoy Them
The end-of-year holidays are a favorite time for many. I mean, it’s hard not to love the extra vacations off work, the time with friends and family, the festivities and the food. And boy is there food… lots of it. The amount of treats and feasts between Halloween and New Year’s Day has clearly won these months the right to be called “national eating season”. It may be a merry time, but it sure can make watching one’s weight difficult. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of tips that can help you successfully diet during the holidays.
The average American gains 7 pounds during the holiday season!
Too Much Good Stuff
The holidays are meant to be a time of sharing with those you love. In many modern cultures and traditions, this includes seemingly endless feasts, sweets and drinks. Not only is there an abundance of food, but much of it is high-calorie. Partaking in all the ‘fun’ can make sustaining momentum with your weight management difficult. After all, we cannot afford to have many high-calorie days if we’re trying to keep weight down. But we have the power to make the right choices that will keep us -and our appetites- under control. And many of these allow us to still enjoy the merriment with our family and friends.
To be clear, these tips are not meant to get you shredded by X-mas, nor heading into the New Year with a new six pack. But following this advice from registered dieticians and the CDC should help you with appetite control and the support of healthy holiday eating habits. In turn, this will help you maintain a more stable body weight and minimal extra “festivity fat” to work off come January.
So whether you celebrate Halloween, Dia de Muertos, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Festivus, or anything in between… You can think of these guidelines as your holidays diet plan. At the very least, they should help you know how to not gain weight over the holidays. And to be clear, you can use these during any season to support your weight management goals all year!
1. Engage in Physical Activity
The amount of physical activity you engage in makes a significant difference in your weight management. Staying active will make it more likely that you will stay focused on your food choices. This goes doubly so during the holiday season. You’ll have put in the work, so won’t want to see it all go to
waist waste via empty calories.
A fun thing to consider is: What happens if you expend an average number of weekly physical activity calories over the 10 holiday weeks? You could avoid gaining these pounds just with physical activity. In fact, by doing just a bit more and/or eating less, you could even lose this weight:
- 1,000 activity calories = 2.9 pounds
- 2,000 activity calories = 5.7 pounds
- 3,000 activity calories = 8.6 pounds
- 4,000 activity calories = 11.4 pounds
Simply walking is a great way to actively get outdoors and burn some calories. Sledding and ice skating are other activities the whole family can enjoy together. If you live in a cooler state, shoveling snow can be another great exercise. Try not to think of it as a chore, but rather as an excuse to enjoy the fresh air and get those muscles working.
2. Eat Lots of Vegetables
You should always strive to make vegetables “half your plate” at every meal. But here is the reminder put a bit of extra focus on this habit during this season. Holiday dishes tend to be loaded with carbs and lacking in true vegetables. In order to get your greens, you may want to offer bringing a side dish to the feast. Consider taking roasted Brussels sprouts, grilled asparagus or artichokes, or even a nutrient-packed super salad.
3. Eat Your Vegetables First
This brilliant strategy helps you eat more nutrients and fiber, and less carbs and sugar. Basically, just eat a portion or two of those healthy vegetables before digging into the honey-glazed ham, savory stuffing, candied yams, and buttery rolls. This ensures you’re getting full on the foods that are actually good for you… And eating less of the foods you’ll regret later.
4. Do Not Skip Meals
We’ve all heard of this trick: Skipping breakfast and “saving” your calories for a big lunch or dinner. (Or skipping both breakfast in lunch in favor of a huge dinner.) Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. In fact, studies have shown that people who do this tend to overeat more than if they’d simply had three meals. Sure, you can lighten your early meals if you know you’ll feast later, just don’t skip them completely. Try this green smoothie as a healthy meal replacement.
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5. Take Your Time and Savor Each Bite
Instead of racing to scarf down your food in anticipation of the next plate, take your time in enjoying each bite as you go. In other words: eat mindfully. By taking the time to actually taste the flavors and explore the textures of the food you are ingesting, you’ll actually feel more satisfied by the meal. Additionally, it takes your brain nearly 20 minutes to get the signal that you’re full. So slowing down your eating will give your body time to give the “stop eating” sign before you cram down an unneeded third helping. And finally, intentionally chewing each bite -let’s say 20 times as opposed to the typical 4-10 times- will aid with digestion, so you’ll be a bit more comfortable as you process the meal, too.
7. Eat Only If You Are Enjoying It
If you are taking the time to savor every bite, then you should also be aware as to whether you are actually enjoying the food. If it feels like you are just going through the motions to finish off a certain serving, or if it otherwise feels like work clearing the plate, consider taking a break. Remember: there is no requirement for you to stuff yourself.
8. Eat What You Love
Closely related to the note above, don’t eat just because food is there. We’ve all fallen into the trap of eating extra appetizers and chips because, well, they were available. Food will certainly be plentiful, so don’t graze on everything. Make it a point to “save your appetite” and eat just the things you truly want. Oh, and this definitely applies to “special” holiday foods… If you aren’t a fan of certain seasonal dishes or egg nog, don’t feel obligated to take any just because “’tis the season”.
9. Enjoy Your Dessert
Let’s be honest: dessert is awesome. You are sure to be lured by countless cookies, cakes, pies, chocolates and other sweet treats during the holidays. And you know what… If you see something you like, go for it! Suppressing your sweet tooth can lead to binging on a whole pie later. So avoid that temptation by calmly satisfying your sugar craving up front. If multiple desserts look good, maybe try a nibble -rather than a full serving- of each. And just like with the vegetable side dish: If you are really concerned about the extra fat and sugar that typically comes with dessert, consider bringing other low/no-sugar, low/no-fat options. Other guests are sure to appreciate it, too!
Some of the tips above require a bit of self control, which can be tough to follow if your hunger cravings are running rampant. This is where I like to use a little “trick” to help me control my appetite. Leptin is the hormone that tells your brain you are “full” after eating. Without enough of it, and your body’s proper response to leptin, you will remain hungry and continue eating. We can use this naturally-occurring body chemical to help avoid overeating by reducing our hunger.
The innovative team at LeptoConnect have found a way to harness the power of organic compounds found in mushrooms and other botanicals to reset a runaway leptin response system. This naturally curbs food cravings and munchies, which will help you focus on just the good foods -and good times- you want during the holidays.
10. Drink Plenty of Water Especially Between Cocktails
Alcohol and the mixers that often accompany them are full of “empty” calories with little-to-no actual nutrition. So one of the best ways to control your holiday caloric intake is simply to avoid drinking (extra) libations. Sticking with water really is the best option. Drinking lots of water helps you feel more full and also aids with digestion. If you are going to drink alcohol, then consider lower-calorie options and cutting your hard liquor with seltzer water. And when you feel thirsty, quench that thirst with water.
11. Fight the Food Coma
I already mentioned how important physical activity is each day. One of the best times to get in a bit of exercise is right after eating. You likely won’t be in any condition to take on a heavy duty work out. But you can -and should- go for a walk. A number of studies show a brisk 15-20 minute walk after a meal can help ease digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels.
12. Celebrate Guilt-Free
The holidays are a season to celebrate and enjoy company. But thinking about healthy holiday eating can make people anxious. And somewhat ironically, anxiety may cause you to eat even more. So relax and enjoy the meal, and try not to get too worked up about holiday weight gain. By taking your time eating, engaging with friends in conversation, and following the other steps above, you’ll minimize the damage. If you happen to eat more than you intended during the holiday season, don’t beat yourself up. Just don’t let a slip become a fall or a fail, and get back to your healthy eating habits as soon as you possibly can.
Bringing It Home for the Holidays
All the advice in the world isn’t helpful unless it is relatable and actually useful. So I hope these dieting tips for the holidays are clear, and are easy for you to implement. If you can stick to these “rules” whenever possible, you should enter the new year without gaining holiday weight. But most importantly, remember to enjoy the season’s festivities, including the food that comes with it. Don’t let a diet get in the way of making memories and spreading good cheer. And if you do happen to gain any weight, know we’ll be here with more diet advice to help you manage and lose weight. Oh, and of course, with new workouts to help whoop you back into shape, too. So, Cheers!
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