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Eating Right Over the Holidays Can Help Support Good Health Without Without Putting a Damper on Celebrations

Making the Right Food Choices Can Lead to a Healthy Holiday Season

The holidays are traditionally a time to plan meals with all the extra trimmings that we tend to skip in our everyday lives. However, those additional side dishes and luxurious treats come with a lot of extra calories, which are less likely to be burned off while we’re all spending more time at home during the pandemic.

“While it should be a time of joy and celebration, the holiday season can also bring on weight gain, added stress, and the holiday blues, especially during this time of uncertainty,” said Linda Shiue, MD, director of Culinary Medicine, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. “I would not recommend that you try to lose weight over the holidays, but it would be wise to try your best to maintain your current healthy habits as much as you can.”

On average, Americans gain about one pound a year during the winter holidays. But the weight can accumulate over the years and contribute to obesity later in life, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For people who are already overweight or obese, the average weight gain can be as much as five pounds, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

“The problem is that this weight gain, no matter how modest, may never be lost again,” said Shiue. “Over time, incremental increase in body weight can lead to a wide range of health problems down the road. Watching what you eat during the holidays is a critical step toward maintaining your overall health and decreasing your risk for developing obesity and other health conditions.”

Watching what you eat is about both quantity and quality. Eating more plants and fewer processed foods and animal products can help. Here are five tips to consider before planning your holiday meals.

  • Don’t deprive yourself: if it makes you sad not to have that cup of eggnog or that latke that reminds you of the holiday season, have a taste, or a small portion. Complete deprivation may make you binge.
  • Pre-eat before big holiday meals. Having a slightly full stomach won’t leave you as much room to gorge on those calorie-laden goodies.
  • Think before you drink: is that beverage worth it? Decide whether you prefer your holiday calories in solid or liquid form. Some helpful figures to aid your decision:
    • Pinot Noir – 5 oz equals 121 cal.
    • Eggnog – 8 oz equals 343 cal.
    • Hot Chocolate – 8 oz equals 222 cal.
    • Champagne – 8 oz equals 89 cal.
  • Keep up your fitness routine. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
  • Don’t forget to get plenty of sleep.

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