1. Plan ahead
If you really want to how to maintain your weight during the holidays, planning ahead will go a long way! We all know our social events and parties are surrounded by food, and that won't change. Since you know there will very likely be a plethora of foods available, you probably need to decide what foods you would like most, as it’s unlikely you will be able to fit them all without making some adjustments to your daily macro budgets. Even if you are not tracking, I would still suggest choosing 1-2 of your favorite treats and limiting your consumption to just those. Don't go completely overboard with your indulgences.
2. Stay active
The holiday months can get very busy, very fast. It's super easy to fall into that holiday mode and before you know it, you've spent the last several nights cooped up binge watching your new favorite show. This sudden increase of inactivity can easily result in weight gain, not to mention our increased habits of indulging in our favorite holiday treats. Of course, you don't want to take away a bunch of quality time with your family and loved once, so try getting active with them outdoors. For example, you can plan a short hike or take a walk around the neighborhood to get the focus away from food. There are lots of things you can do that will keep you active without sacrificing time with your family. Going to the gym 5-6x/week like you normally do, may not be realistic this time of year. That's ok. You may have to sacrifice some things here and there but try to look at the bigger picture and don't use this time as an excuse to give up altogether. If you are traveling over the holidays, you can always try and find the closest local gym and plan to get your workouts done while your family are busy with other things. That way your workout is done for the day, and now you can relax and enjoy the day with my loved ones. Whatever it is, try to stay active!
3. Snack wisely
It's no secret the holidays are often associated with weight gain. We can thank all the delicious homemade treats and calorie dense meals for that one! :) Treats are more easily available, especially during gatherings and parties, making it easy to snack unnecessarily. The easy solution would be to keep them out of sight, but of course this is unrealistic if they're available at your workplace, or the gathering is at someone else's house. In this case, try to be mindful of your snacking habits. If you find yourself munching just because there’s food around, and not because you’re actually hungry, be aware of that and make the conscious decision to stop snacking if you're not in fact truly hungry.
4. Keep meals balanced with protein
Holiday foods are usually packed with carbs and fats, which offer very little satiety (think candies, cookies, breads, even alcohol). Try to include a source of protein at each meal. Protein is not only the most important macronutrient for building lean body mass, it will also help promote feelings of fullness and may help reduce your likelihood of snacking. Some good sources of protein include lean red meat, grilled poultry and fish, egg whites, and fat free dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese, tofu, lentils beans and quinoa.
5. Manage stress levels
The holiday season is also typically associated with increased stress levels. High stress levels can increase our hunger and cravings for those high calorie foods, which just so happen to be conveniently available all around us this time of year. Remember your friends and family will still love you regardless of how good or bad the turkey turns out! Try to relax and enjoy yourself and focus on the memories you create. :)
6. Focus on fiber
Fiber is another important nutrient that also increases the feeling of fullness. Studies show that increased dietary fiber can help to reduce total calorie intake, which may help prevent weight gain over the holidays. Foods high in fiber include vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains as well as nuts and seeds.
7. Cut back on taste testing
If you are anything like me, there is a lot of cooking taking place around holiday time. Knowing when to draw the line on your taste testing is crucial. Bites, licks and tastes - or BLT's as I like to call it - do count and add up FAST. Avoid baking when you are hungry, as it’s much easier to go overboard on taste-testing when your stomach is growling.
8. Limit dessert intake
Dessert is everywhere around us this time of year. This often leads to excessive calorie consumption from highly palatable foods. "I'll have some fresh fruit for dessert." - said no one ever. Hello, of course banana cream pie is delicious! If you have a set calorie budget for your holiday occasion, either bake your own lower calorie version, or focus on your favorite dessert, and do away with the rest.
9. Use a smaller place
Research has shown that when we eat from a larger plate, we naturally tend to eat more calories. Try using a smaller appetizer plate to help control your portion size. Perception is a powerful tool.
10. Know when to draw the line
Many people have an “I’ll start tomorrow” mentality during this time of year, which often leads people down a pathway of poor decision making surrounding their nutrition. This often carries over well after the holiday period and into the new year. I'm sure this sounds familiar.
If you’re serious about maintaining your weight over the holidays, know when to draw the line, set limits for yourself, and stick to your goals regarding your food intakes. It’s okay to say no to certain foods and habits that don’t align with your goals.