Holiday table set with meals

Nutrition Tips for the Holidays by Mike Glab, RD at FFC East Lakeview and FFC Boystown

Can you believe we’re already approaching the holidays and the close of the 2010s decade? For many people, holiday gatherings with rich meals, desserts and boozy drinks can lead to unnecessary stress surrounding weight, diet and appearance. This is largely based on the misconception that you will pack on the pounds this time of year, but did you know the average American gains one pound during the holidays?

It’s hardly worth flipping your existing nutrition routine on its head for a potential one-pound weight gain, so this post will look beyond the plate to provide guidance. Use one, some or all of these tips during the holidays, but always remember the most important tip of all: Enjoy your holiday meal!

Avoid making any drastic changes
Around the holidays people like to cut out carbs, start fasting or skip meals entirely. Their thinking is that these changes are going to offset the overindulgence of food and drink that occurs during the holidays.

My advice is to stick to your routine as much as you possibly can. Making one of the changes above can lead to unintended consequences such as undernourishing your body, underfueling your workout, low blood sugar and worst of all being HANGRY.

You can try something new when you can fully commit the time and resources it takes to see sustainable, healthy, habit changes. Working with a dietitian can provide you the guidance to achieve that!

Keep your routine consistent
Eat your familiar meals and snacks as close to the times you normally do leading up to the holiday meal. Provide yourself the level of nourishment you generally expect, and you may not be as tempted to overindulge at holiday meals.

This gets a little more tricky if you travel for the holidays. Bring balanced snacks for the plane or car ride like a banana and almonds, beef jerky and an apple, a cheese stick and baby carrots or a turkey sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread.

Bonus: Here’s an example of a balanced, nourishing meal that requires very little prep in a travel situation: One whole wheat english muffin topped with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and banana slices. Wash it down with an 8 oz glass of cow’s, soy or pea milk for extra protein.

Practice mindful eating
Mindful Eating is a strategy used to call your full attention to the present meal. You can try one or more of the following strategies to help you eat more mindfully.

  • Eliminate distractions like your phone, television or computer.
  • Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues.
  • Focus on all sensory aspects of the meal: taste and flavor, mouthfeel and texture, smells, sounds and the colors on your plate.
    Appreciate food as fuel for your body.
  • Coping with (and eventually reducing) feelings of anxiety and guilt with food.

Mindful Eating is a great technique to use during the holidays because you are not required to significantly alter your diet. You are simply being more present at the meal and fully immersing yourself in the pleasure of eating. The goal is to replace any negative feelings with more self-control, awareness and positivity.

Hydrate with non-caloric beverages
Liquid calories are the sneakiest of calories. According to one study, liquid calories make up 22% of calories in the average American diet. For some perspective, that is 440 calories per day in a standard 2000 calorie diet or 3,080 calories per week!

Soda is basically liquid candy and empty calories. One 12 ounce cola is 150 calories, exclusively from added sugar. Fruit juice isn’t much better, even if it’s 100% derived from fruit. One cup of apple juice contains 115 calories. When it comes to alcohol, on average, a 12 ounce beer is 153 calories, a 5 ounce glass of wine is 125 calories and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor is 100 calories.

Try hydrating with non-caloric beverages or, at the very least, alternate the above high calorie drinks with non-caloric beverages. Non-caloric beverages include:

  • Water
  • Sparkling water
  • Unsweetened tea
  • Black coffee

Enjoy the holidays!
Holiday weight gain is drastically overhyped as the average American gains about one pound during this time of year. The strategies above will provide you guidance and help alleviate any food-related stress during the already stressful holiday season. Enjoy your time with family, friends and food during the holidays.

Mike Glab is the RD at FFC East Lakeview and FFC Boystown and can be reached at mglab@ffc.com. Contact Mike or your FFC RD to help you work through these strategies and more!

Sources:
Stanford
Live Science
Healthline
Reuters
Healthline