Healthy Holiday Eating Strategies

Historically, most of us gain weight during the holidays.  The holiday ‘noshing’ season starts when you start snacking on those miniature chocolate bars from Halloween and, sometimes, it doesn’t stop until you’ve licked the red stripes off the last candy cane on the tree.  Everywhere you turn, there are more ‘goodies’ to seduce your taste buds.

 In order to break the pattern of weight gain over the holidays and weight loss in the new year, it is necessary to set goals, look at some of the weight gain pitfalls, and develop some strategies for successfully managing the season.

 Set goals

 Between now and the New Year

  •  I will lose _________ pounds.
  •  I will gain no more than _________ pounds.
  • My goal is to maintain my weight over the holidays.


Recognize ‘pitfalls’

 Too much alcohol:

  • Dehydrates the cells and suppresses the nervous system.
  • Causes poor attention, an inability to concentrate, and fatigue.
  • Interferes with sleep patterns.
  • Causes imbalances in body chemicals, including blood sugar, serotonin, endorphins, and other hormones and nerve chemicals.
  • Light drinkers – Reduces blood glucose levels for a short time (stimulates the appetite).
  • Heavy drinkers – Experience depression, fatigue, and irritability during withdrawal. Leads to a craving for caffeine, candy, sweets and other carbohydrates.
  • Sugary foods produce a temporary high, but within hours you will experience tiredness, anxiety and irritability again – a cycle/condition called DYSPHORIA.

 Too many extra/empty calorie foods:

  1. Encourages omission of healthier foods.
  2. Causes weight gain.
  3. Leads to cravings.


Increased fat intake:

  • Results in a significant increase in caloric intake (1 g fat = 9 calories).
  • Causes weight gain.
  • Increases cholesterol and contributes to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.  (Most of the fat consumed during the holiday season is saturated fat coming from meats, shortening in pastries, cakes and cookies.  Saturated fat clogs arteries – leading to narrowing of the arteries and an increase in blood pressure.)
  • Causes stomach discomfort and heartburn.

     Lack of exercise

  • Fewer calories burned.
  • Decreased ability to manage stress.
  • Causes weight gain.


Implement Strategies

 Recognize that healthy eating is a decision, a mindset.

  • Set a goal for after the holiday.
  • Adhere to the healthy eating program set out in The Healthy Options Healthy Eating & Weight Loss Plan.
  • Take time to reflect on the food selections you have eaten or omitted daily.  If you are missing selections, have them.  Do not forego healthy foods for extra calorie selections.
  • Never go to a party hungry.
  • Recognize the stress factor, especially if you tend to overeat when stressed.
  • Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage.
  • Do not eat or drink to please other people.
  • Avoid “black & white thinking” – you have not failed because of one “not-so-healthy” day/meal.
  • Commit to drinking at least 8 glasses of water each day – avoid alcohol dehydration.
  • Do not wear “buffet clothes” to a party – they grow with you.  Wear tailored clothing!
  • Aim for low fat choices; fat has twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates.
  • Do the “fat-pat”.  Place all snack foods on a napkin before eating and watch the fat seep through.
  • Choose crunchy fruits and vegetables for that “full feeling”, before the other goodies.
  • Do not eat to the point of discomfort -Know when to STOP!

About Winsome Dewar

Winsome Dewar, RHN, RNCP is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She is the author of The Healthy Options Healthy Eating and Weight Loss Plan® and the host of Rogers TV’s cooking show – Cooking with Winsome.
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