Holiday Safety
Healthy Holidays

Conventional wisdom says Americans gain one to two pounds during the holiday season. With the combination of rich foods and cold weather, it's not surprising. While a couple of pounds isn’t dramatic, the problem is they tend to stick around and add up over the years. However, with a few simple changes, you can maintain a healthy lifestyle during the winter months. Consider these ideas from UW Health's registered dietitian Amy Mihm.

Don't Skip Meals

It can be tempting to skip breakfast or even lunch when dinner is going to be a big meal. But, people who skip meals are more likely to gain weight. When energy levels are low, people are more likely to reach for foods and beverages that give a quick lift, like soda, candy and processed carbohydrates. In addition to being high in empty calories, these food choices don't provide the nourishment that is needed to keep up with daily activities. 

Instead, eat a breakfast high in fiber with a good protein source for a sustained release of fuel to the brain and body. This will lead to improved concentration, physical stamina and mental energy throughout the day. Examples of a balanced breakfast include –

  • Whole grain toast or bagel with peanut butter, banana slices and milk
  • Oatmeal with milk, raisins and walnuts
  • Homemade smoothie with frozen fruit and yogurt
  • High fiber cereal with milk, low-fat yogurt and a slice of melon
  • Scrambled eggs with vegetables on a whole grain tortilla and small glass of 100 percent juice
  • Bran muffin, low fat cheese slices and fruit

Remember, eating healthy, properly portioned meals throughout the day can help keep the weight off.

Make Exercise a Priority

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can make it challenging to stick to a regular exercise routine.

Even if it's not possible to make it to the gym, there are easy ways to add activity throughout the day, including –

  • Parking far from the shopping mall and walking
  • Taking stairs whenever possible
  • Going for a brisk walk after dinner together as a family
  • Enjoying winter activities like skiing, sledding or snowshoeing

Staying active also helps manage stress, whether it’s caused by fighting crowds at the mall, managing an influx of family and friends or keeping up with holiday baking. Getting up and moving every day provides many mental and physical benefits. Gentle movement can have meditative effects, while more vigorous activity can release the stress-busting endorphins.

Holiday Weight Gain

Have a strategy

It seems like nearly every holiday gathering includes lots of rich food, whether it is Grandma's pumpkin pie or Aunt Mary's casserole. Even if the family tradition includes decadent desserts, it is still possible to enjoy the traditions without sabotaging a healthy lifestyle. Having a strategy can help.

When filling the dinner plate at a meal, try mentally splitting the plate up with foods so that –

¼ of the plate is protein (turkey, ham, etc.)

¼ of the plate is carbohydrates (potatoes, stuffing, rice, etc.)

½ of the plate is fruit and vegetables

It's okay to have a small amount of your favorite foods, but try and ensure the majority of the choices are healthier options. And remember, the calories in alcoholic beverages can really add up. Pair a drink with a meal rather than in advance of the meal to help balance the number of calories consumed.

The true beauty of the season comes from the enjoying the company of family and friends. Over-indulging at a meal happens to everyone. The important thing is to stay active and healthy all year long.