challenging the weight-gain blues during the holidaysWhen candy canes, chocolates, and gingerbread men surround you, it can be hard to make it through the holidays without consuming more than your usual share of treats. I say this as I sit here typing and eating frosted peppermint dipped pretzels. Don’t think about it too long, as this article is meant to offer insights to avoid the feeling of a sugar overload and stop you from gaining the “holiday 15”.

So instead of reaching for another handful of caramel popcorn, review the following suggestions for a healthier holiday and coming year.

Don’t Use Excuses – Avoid using the holidays as an excuse to overeat and bake more treats. Consider holiday meals like any other meal out of the year and bake seasonal treats in moderation. When it comes to the holiday meal, choose more fresh vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Avoid eating dinner rolls, loads of mashed potatoes, and an entire pumpkin pie. There are many healthy alternatives to traditional holiday meal fixings. Throw a new and healthy entrée in the mix, such as green salads, roasted vegetables, and brown rice or quinoa pilafs.

Eat Ahead – Before attending holiday parties make sure you eat ahead. Otherwise, you may feel famished and unable to restrain yourself from diving for the turkey and stuffing. Eat a light snack or meal, such as a cup of homemade soup, yogurt and nuts, fresh salad with chicken, or veggie slices and almond butter.

Portion Control ­– Be determined in your mind to watch your portions. Start with a small portion of food on your plate and see how you feel after the meal. If you go back for seconds, take another small portion. If you pay attention to your body, you will know when you have had enough food. There is no need to overdue, plus you can enjoy having leftovers.

Keep Your Lifestyle Healthy – Take your vitamins (probiotics, multivitamin, fish oil), get seven to eight hours of sleep, eat nutritious foods, and exercise at least three times each week. Don’t let the holidays change your healthy lifestyle; otherwise, you will pay for the consequences with a weakened immune system, tight fitting jeans, and exhaustion.

Stay Complex – Many holiday foods are extremely high on the glycemic index and offset your blood sugar. Eating simple, refined foods with a high-glycemic content can make you hungrier, in which your body will crave more sweet choices throughout the day. Individuals who eat high-glycemic meals in the morning, such as pastries and cereals, have an increased level of hunger throughout the day. In comparison, those who eat low-glycemic meals in the morning have less hunger during the day. Avoid simple carbohydrates and choose complex carbohydrates that do not cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Also, make sure you eat low-glycemic foods at each meal, such as nuts, fish, poultry, beans, whole grains, or vegetables.

The bottom line is to treat the holiday season of eating like any other time of year. Therefore, stick to healthy meals, limit the amount of holiday treats that come into your home, find another use for fruitcake – like a doorstop – and focus on the more important aspects of the season … friends and family – not food.

Arumugam V, Lee JS, Nowak JK, Pohle RJ, et al. A high-glycemic meal pattern elicited increased subjective appetite sensations in overweight and obese women. Appetite. 2008;50(2-3):215-222.

Winkler P, de Vrese M, Laue Ch, Schrezenmeir J. Effect of a dietary supplement containing probiotic bacteria plus vitamins and minerals on common cold infections and cellular immune parameters. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Jul;43(7):318-26.

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