Healthy eating strategies for the holidays

By Leah RobertsDecember 6, 2018

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(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

At this time of the year, many people may be worried about the holidays wrecking their diet or adding on extra pounds.

Weight management can feel difficult throughout the year, but with back-to-back holidays from October to January, it can seem like a greater challenge.

Several studies indicate the average gain is only one or two pounds over the holidays, even though it may feel like five or 10.

Extra carbohydrates and sodium in holiday treats could be the culprit for feeling bloated, but should resolve after returning to normal eating patterns.

Nevertheless, there are a number of tips that can help people beat the holiday bloat:

Have a plan and don't leave home without it!

There are many examples in life where showing up without a plan spells disaster. The same can be true with eating.

Try choosing what to order before heading to the restaurant and be sure to order first.

Sometimes, our minds are easily changed when we hear others ordering high-calorie meals. It can be tempting to follow their example.

Have a plan before leaving home and stick with it.

Be mindful, not mindless!

Practice mindful eating and avoid picking or grazing throughout the day, which tends to be a mindless habit.

Keeping a food journal can help identify habits and trends that can lead to skipping meals, snacking, grazing and mindless eating.

Some common distractions that lead to mindless eating include eating either in front of the TV, while working on the computer or in the car.

Multitasking should not be practiced at dinner time. Also, strive to stop eating before feeling full, which requires listening to your body before feeling full.

Put treats in their place!

Avoid open trays of cookies or other high-calorie treats, especially in areas where people are likely to congregate such as the office break room.

Hanging out at the snack table can become a mindless eating trap.

Tell high-calorie drinks to take a hike!

Choose a low-calorie alternative to your favorite indulgence. There are many blogs with recipes for a "skinny" version of just about anything.

Try a "skinny" hot apple cider or chai tea instead of a regular iced coffee or blenderized coffee drink from a local fast food chain.

A "skinny" hot apple cider or chai tea can come in under 90 calories per drink, while a medium blenderized coffee drink tips the scales at more than 500 calories.

High-calorie beverages, including sweet tea or soda, are impossible to fit into a well-balanced, weight-management plan.

New year, new tradition?

Don't be afraid to create new traditions such as a scheduled walk with family, friends or a beloved pet several times a week.

Sometimes, it just takes one person to offer up a suggestion of going for a bike ride or meeting at the mall to walk.

Don't forget that friends and family also struggle to be active.

Dieting over the holidays can be a difficult task, so consider modifying your goal to maintain your weight instead.

There is no need to add the additional pressure of losing weight during a time when you may experience more stress and temptation than other times of the year.

Keeping a food journal may seem pointless, but in many cases, it is the most valuable tool available for not only learning more about food-related behaviors, but also in providing instant accountability.

Research supports this recommendation, so give it a try. It can be a game changer.

Finally, reach out to your health care team, friends, family or a religious expert to help you deal with and manage holiday stress.

Service members and their family members can call the Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center appointment line at 301-677-8800 to discuss their nutritional needs with a registered dietician.