You probably won’t gain a feared 5 or 10 pounds over the winter holidays. In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000 showed that normal-weight folks only gain an average of 1 pound during this season of feasting.
But remember, gaining just one pound a year adds up to an extra 20 pounds in 20 years. What can you do to prevent piling on the pounds, especially during the holidays? Here are six tips.
1. Bank calories. Save up calories by eating smaller breakfasts and lunches to be able to eat more calories at a dinner party.
Do this by either reducing how much you eat or the caloric density of the foods chosen. On this second point, for example, swap bacon and eggs for a bowl of oatmeal sweetened with sliced fruit. For lunch, go for a bowl of vegetable soup, or better yet a bean or lentil soup since the dietary fiber in beans has great stick-to-your-ribs power.
2. Don’t go to a party hungry. If you go hungry to a party, you will have little willpower not to eat everything in sight. Instead, and this may sound counter to a tip for weight control, but eat before you go.
A snack is ideal to take the edge off hunger. Choose something high in fiber and something rich in protein to promote satiety. Ideal options include celery and peanut butter, an apple and wedge of cheddar cheese, and a carton of nonfat vanilla yogurt and a handful of berries.
3. Beware the buffet table. If you stand next to the buffet table, you are more likely to keep reaching for food. Instead, stand several feet away.
In addition, if you can, choose to stand rather than sit. Studies show that you can burn from 20 to 50 calories more per hour by standing rather than sitting. That doesn’t sound like much, but over a two-hour party that can add up to 40 to 100 calories. Eating 100 calories less or burning 100 calories more every day results in a pound lost in little over a month.
4. Choose wisely. Just because it’s on the table doesn’t mean you have to eat it. For example, unless the mashed potatoes are topped with caviar or the macaroni and cheese is flavored with truffles, forego the foods you can eat any time during the year.
Instead, spend your calories on those seasonal favorites or secret recipes that are really something special. This way, you won’t feel deprived and you won’t leave the party feeling like stuffed turkey.
5. Take a taste, not a whole plate. Choose just a couple of offerings; there is no need to fill up your whole plate. Research has shown that maximum taste enjoyment is found in the first few bites of a dish.
6. Watch what you drink. Beverages can add up to lots of extra calories. Consider that a glass of wine has the same calories as a miniature chocolate bar, a can of beer is equal to the calories of a small bag of potato chips, and a 5-ounce cup of eggnog provides the same calories as a Twinkie cream-filled cake.
7. Exercise. Go out for some exercise the day of a party. Take a walk. Ride a bike. Shoot some baskets. Research conducted on data supplied by the National Weight Control Registry reveals that successful strategies to control holiday weight gain included regular exercise.
Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and a regular contributor to The Triton. Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.