By Dr Laurie Teitelman, ND
Contrary to what you may have heard, most people typically only gain around 1 pound or so over the holiday season. The problem is that many will carry this extra pound around with them all year and subsequently add another one to it the next year. In reality, the much-dreaded “holiday weight gain” isn’t nearly as much of a threat as that insidious upward creep of a pound or two per year. Many of my patients say that ‘all of a sudden’, they noticed a ‘weight gain of 10-20 pounds over the years’ and are not quite sure where it came from. To avoid this, it is wise that you start watching your weight while it is still manageable and catch any gain early! Prevention is KEY!
As you navigate through the rounds of holiday parties this year, smart choices can allow you to have a blast without adding an extra one, five or ten pounds to your New Year’s Resolution. Here are a few of my favorite tips that can help you stay on track:
1. Skip the heavy pie crusts and biscuit doughs and opt for the thin, crispy phyllo foods instead, as the latter are usually brushed in olive oil as opposed to butter and are lower in saturated fat and calories. Spinach and mushrooms are a great filling option as they act as low-calorie carriers for savory fillings. Keep portion control in mind as these itty bitty treats add up!
2. Cozy up next to a warm drink like hot apple cider or herbal tea, both of which are delicious seasonal treats. Since most people tend to drink hot, spiced drinks more slowly than chilled beverages, fewer refills means fewer calories. Sip away!
3. Fill up on veggies. You’re sure to find a tray of fresh fruits or vegetables somewhere at every party. Mark its location and return frequently to refill your plate with crunchy veggies; a spot of dip is OK but don’t overdo it.
4. Get full on protein. If your host has splurged on sliced roast beef, a lovely shrimp cocktail or oysters on the half shell, you’ve hit the jackpot. Lean protein will help curb your appetite for more dangerous fare (especially sugary treats) and a spot of horseradish or hot sauce (or cayenne pepper) can also help satisfy the urge to overeat.
5. Step away from the hot chafing dish! Although “hot spinach and artichoke dip” sounds innocent (as if it contains more veggies than anything else), don’t kid yourself: It’s mostly cheese and mayonnaise. If you’re craving something cheesy, enjoy a small wedge of creamy brie instead (which is actually lower in fat and calories than hard cheeses like cheddar FYI). Then, repeat steps 3 and 4.
6. Crack open some nuts. It takes just a few seconds to inhale several hundred calories worth of that salted nut mix. Instead, try a handful of walnuts or almonds.
7. Add a little sweet. I follow the 85/15 rule, where 85% of my diet is filled with wise, healthy choices, but I do allow myself a treat 15% of the time. When the desserts come out, try grabbing a candy cane (60 calories) or chocolate truffle (40 calories) to suck on and savor as you pass on the cookie plate (90 to 200 calories per, and who can stop at just one?). To fill up more of the healthier 85%, enjoy some slices of fresh fruit, which will help curb your sweet tooth.