Living Well

Healthy tips to get through the holidays and limit the weight gain

Devin Brittain, Registered Dietitian
Healthy tips to get through the holidays and limit the weight gain

Don’t look now, but we have hit one of the busiest seasons of the year when it comes to eating. With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas approaching, many people will gather with family and friends and attend holiday parties. With those festivities comes an abundance of holiday treats and favorite seasonal foods.

Since we weren't able to celebrate "normally" last year due to COVID-19, we may be more enticed to overdo it this year, so the question is, how do you celebrate without busting your belt?

Healthy holiday eating can be a challenge

Registered Dietitians are specially trained in proper diet habits and weight management, and if anyone can talk about calories and the hazards of holiday eating, we can. This time of year keeps dietitians busy, reminding everyone, especially our patients, of the temptations that may lie ahead.

On average, a Thanksgiving meal can total as many as 4,500 calories and Christmas dinner can go up to 5,200 calories. Holiday eating can lead to weight gain, and it’s not something that surprises people. A recent study questioned 2000 people across the country, and 43 percent of them said they expect to gain 7 pounds over the holiday season. In that same survey, four in ten respondents even admitted they had to unbutton their pants following their holiday dinner last year!

Holiday eating by the numbers

Sometimes it takes a reality check to get people thinking about what they are consuming and which holiday goodies can lead to belt-busting if you don’t pace yourself. For instance:

  • A cup of eggnog with whole milk and brandy packs over 430 calories
  • One-half cup of mixed nuts equates to 407 calories
  • Sweet Potato Casserole will set you back 276 calories per cup
  • Giblet Gravy has 178 calories per half cup
  • A piece of pecan pie (1/8 of a standard pie) has 456 calories

Now what? 

7 tips for healthy eating during the holidays:

  • Do not Skip Meals to “save calories for later:" Plan to stick to your your regular eating routine to decrease overeating and stabilize your blood sugar. Eat a balanced breakfast the morning of festivities and a healthy snack if your party later in the day.
  • Fill up on your favorites: If there is a food you only eat around the holidays, enjoy it! Don’t take a food item you do not like just because it is available. If you like the appetizers more then the main meal, get yourself some appetizers and eat less of the main course.
  • Eat your Vegetables: The exception to favorites rule is vegetables. Make sure to have a vegetable at the party that enjoy and will eat! If there is not one you like, bring a healthy vegetable dish to share. Your vegetables are packed with fiber and nutrients and eating them First will help ease the hunger and lessen the high caloric intake.
  • Plate size: Use a small dinner plate versus a regular plate as it will limit the amount of space for food. If you find you are still hungry, go back for seconds.
  • Mindful Eating: Slowly eat as it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full. You can ask yourself questions about the tastes, smells, and textures. Bringing your mind to the food in front of you, may help you feel more satiety while eating less.
  • Drink More Water: Watch your liquid intake as holiday drinks and cocktails can pack a lot of calories. Making a point to alternate between your holiday and water can help with cutting the beverage calories and keep your body happy.
  • Exercise: Incorporating more physical activity can help reduce the stress, combat the feelings of a “food coma”, and keep you in your routine. Perhaps you and your guests walk to see the Christmas lights after dinner or turn on some music and dance!

You don’t have to be a calorie Grinch to enjoy the holidays

We all need to celebrate, especially after the last couple of years we’ve had. But be aware of what you're eating and drinking and make wise choices, so you don’t pack on the pounds. Planning can allow you to truly take in the festivities and not have to worry about the consequences down the road.

After all, one day of “overindulgence” is not going to disrupt progress– but multiple changes to your normal healthy routine can, so use these helpful tips and be jolly!

We hope you have a safe, happy, and Wellthy Holiday Season!

About Devin Brittain: 
 Devin is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist in the state of Louisiana. She is currently the Outpatient Dietitian for the Cancer Center at West Jefferson Medical Center where she assists patients and teaches healthy cooking classes. She is serves on the board for the New Orleans Dietetic Association where she strongly advocates for the dietetic profession and the health of her community. In her free time, Devin enjoys attending festivals, reading, developing recipes, dancing, and cheering on the Saints! She is passionate about utilizing her food and nutrition knowledge to benefit others and believes in finding innovative ways to encourage a healthy lifestyle that works for each individual.