Nutrition Column – Twelve Ways to Enjoy Holiday Festivities Without the Post-Holiday Bulge

Between family dinners, parties with friends and co-workers, cookie exchanges and New Year celebrations, the holidays can take a toll on our waistlines. Here are 12 ways to help promote a healthful holiday now and into the new year.

1. Eat breakfast. You’ll have more energy to get you through the morning and won’t be as likely to nibble on snacks before lunch. The breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should include some protein and some fiber.

2. Take a morning walk. It’s a great way to start the day, get your body moving and let go of the stresses that come with the holidays.

3. Drink plenty of water. Even though it’s cold outside and you don’t feel thirsty, you still need six to eight glasses of water and other fluids each day. Water is the best choice for keeping hydrated.

4. Set realistic goals for what and how much you’ll eat at holiday buffets and parties. If you know your downfall is the dessert table, decide how many different desserts you’ll try and then take a small portion of each. Provide for this in your day’s meal plan. Once you’ve made your choice, enjoy the desserts and don’t feel guilty.  

5. If the holiday party is a pot-luck affair, make sure your dish is light in calories and low in fat. That way, you can count on at least one nutritious choice.  

6. At dinner parties, keep helping sizes on the smaller size. If multiple choices are offered, select between mashed potatoes and candied yams, for example, or between pumpkin pie and pecan pie, not both.  

7. At cocktail parties, arrive fashionably late with a stomach that’s not too hungry. A grinding stomach will sabotage even the strongest willpower.

8. Take only a small plate through the buffet or snack table and make lower fat choices such as fresh vegetables, boiled shrimp and fruit over fried canapes, meat balls and cheese. Once through the line, move away. Even if you’re not hungry, the act of eating is contagious. Setting up court next to the buffet table can be deadly.

9. Rethink your drink at cocktail parties. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink an evening. Keep your glass filled with mineral water or ice water doused with a splash of lemon. If you prefer soda, choose a diet one. These no-calorie drinks will help keep your whistle wet and your stomach satisfied without adding to your waistline.

10. Shy away from cookie exchanges. Share the cookies and candies you receive as gifts with neighbors or co-workers.

11. Plan holiday outings that include activity. Go to a dance. Take part in a hayride. Go skating or take the kids skiing or sledding. It’s a lot more fun than staying home and you’ll be less tempted by the refrigerator.

12. Above all, enjoy yourself. Remember, it’s the socializing, not the food, that makes the holidays so special. Savor the holidays as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends.  

by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension