10 ways to fight holiday weight gain

October 30, 2013

The holidays - starting with Halloween - can be scary for those watching their weight.

Avoiding the holiday food onslaught can be a challenge. The average American gains one to two pounds during the holiday season. It may seem inevitable, but it's possible to fend off added weight during the holidays without becoming a dietary Scrooge. All it takes are some little changes, which can add up to big things.

1. Fill your plate with the good things first

You can still fill your plate at a holiday buffet, but fill it with fresh fruits and vegetables instead of fried chicken fingers or cheese sticks.

2. Make time for exercise

It can be difficult to find time to exercise during the busy holiday season. But getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week can help keep the pounds at bay and lessen the impact of indulgences.

3. Lighten up family recipes

Old family recipes tend to call for high-fat, high-calorie ingredients such as heavy cream and butter. Instead, try using reduced fat milk in place of cream, and low-fat yogurt-based spread instead of butter.

4. Stick with white meat

Eat white-meat turkey, which has fewer calories and less fat than dark meat. A 3-ounce serving of skinless turkey breast has 119 calories and 1 gram of fat. The same amount of dark meat has 142 calories and 5 grams of fat.

5. Go on, indulge...in moderation

Little indulgences can help you stay on track. The more deprived you feel, the more you could be setting yourself up for a fall later. Allowing yourself a small cookie or piece of cake here and there can help keep you successful in the long run.

6. Skim the gravy

Put gravy through a skimmer before serving, and you'll cut the calories by 80 percent. That's a substantial change: Holiday gravy that's not skimmed contains 60 to 70 calories per tablespoon. A generous helping can add as many as 500 calories to your holiday dinner.

7. Serve healthy options

You (and your guests) might appreciate having at least one guilt-free item on the table, such as a fresh fruit salad or steamed vegetables topped with lemon juice and herbs. A one-half cup serving of steamed green beans has only 15 calories and a trace of fat; a one-half cup serving of sautéed green beans has 50 calories and 6.6 grams of fat.

8. Send leftovers packing

Instead of putting leftovers in your refrigerator where they can tempt you later, banish them entirely and send them home with your guests.

9. Watch the alcohol

Pay attention to what you drink. Two mixed drinks can contain as much as 500 calories, one cup of eggnog, 380 calories. But two glasses of cider or white wine have only 300 calories. Whatever your beverage of choice, be careful not to overindulge; drinking too much lowers your inhibitions and can lead to overeating. Try having a glass of water between drinks.

10. Make a sweet swap

Serve apple pie topped with vanilla frozen yogurt instead of pecan pie topped with whipped cream. Per slice, you'll save 460 calories and 32 grams of fat.

Planning ahead for nutritional holiday eating will help you and your family maintain healthy weights. Remember, even one positive diet change can help contribute to your overall health and well-being.

If you have struggled with weight gain or are ready to make a healthy change, call the UC Irvine Health Weight Management Program at 949-824-8770.

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