Ask the Dietitian: December 2012
It's common this time of year to be concerned about staying on track with your health and fitness goals. During the holiday season, more than ever, we tend to be surrounded by the temptation to eat more and exercise less, which, as we all know, is the textbook recipe for weight gain.

"How can I dodge the dreaded weight gain this holiday season?"

It's common this time of year to be concerned about staying on track with your health and fitness goals. During the holiday season, more than ever, we tend to be surrounded by the temptation to eat more and exercise less, which, as we all know, is the textbook recipe for weight gain. It's not easy to get through this time without a few extra pounds, but here are a few steps you can take to assist you in your efforts:

Don't stress an individual day, and plan for the entire month: One day out of 365 isn't likely to have a significant impact on your waistline; however, the entire month of December absolutely can.
With that in mind, try to make a plan ahead of time as to how you will handle the holiday parties, the cookies sitting out in the break room, and the goodies your neighbors so graciously bring by for you.

For instance, you might consider bringing reasonable snacks (i.e. fruit, yogurt, light popcorn, etc.) to work so that you have something to fall back on when you feel the urge to munch on cookies.

Don't make your willpower work so hard: Often times we think our success or failure to eat healthfully relies entirely upon the strength of our willpower. Whether or not this is the case, it's not fair for you to beat yourself up for eating candy when you have a candy bowl sitting on your desk.

Set yourself up for success by modifying your home and office environments appropriately. Avoid bringing foods you find tempting into the house. If you receive baked goods from friends and co-workers, don't leave them sitting out on your desk or the kitchen counter; instead, store them inconveniently (i.e. the back of the top shelf of the pantry or in the freezer behind all the frozen vegetables). You will still have the treats available, but the mere inconvenience of getting to them may be enough to make you think twice.

'Bake this, not that': Try using healthier substitutions in some of your baking/cooking. Applesauce is a great replacement for oil (ratio 1:1) in quick breads, cakes, and muffins.

Sugar substitutes, such as Splenda, work well to replace sugar in most baked goods (or try using ½ Splenda and 1/2 sugar). Use two egg whites for every whole egg in a recipe to cut out some of the additional fat and cholesterol from the egg yolks.

Party sensibly: Likely you will be faced with holiday parties and potlucks throughout the month, most of which center around food. Try to plan accordingly by eating a reasonable snack before attending so you do not show up ravenous.

When you get to the event, take a scan of the food table before making a plate so that you can narrow down the list of 'must haves.' After eating, strategically place yourself to socialize away from food or near the vegetable tray so you don't continue to needlessly snack throughout. Lastly, do not forget that calories from drinks count, and they can add up quickly!

Although following these suggestions may help you stay on track, it is important that you are realistic with your expectations. Over the next couple of weeks, weight maintenance is a more reasonable goal than weight loss. Regardless, you don't have to wait until January to start developing healthy habits.

(Editor's Note: Ask the Dietitian is a monthly column. Have a question? Email mary.staudter@us.army.mil.)

Page last updated Tue December 18th, 2012 at 00:00