Written By Dani Rodriguez-Brindicci, Director of Clinical Nutrition at
As the holidays approach, so does an abundance of tempting and fat-laden
treats and sweets. The average American gains between five and 10 pounds
between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. From open houses and formal
dinners to office parties and cookie exchanges, it’s easy to overdo
it with so much delicious food. All those extra goodies can add up to
extra pounds—unless you know how to play it smart.
“This time of year can derail any individual’s attempt to improve
their health and manage their weight. Instead of getting frustrated and
sabotaging yourself, it’s important to make daily conscious decisions
to keep you on the right path,” says Dani Rodriguez-Brindicci, director
of clinical nutrition at Torrance Memorial.
Here are Dani’s simple and easy-to-follow tips to help keep you on
the path to a healthier body and lifestyle during the busy holiday season:
- Stick to your regular eating pattern. Don’t skip meals, because this
lowers blood sugar levels and causes you to overeat to make up for missed calories.
- Balance party meals with other meals. Eat small, healthy meals so party
food won’t cause you to exceed your calorie needs for the day. Using
small plates at parties will help restrict your portions and limit the
- Choose your calories wisely. Check out what foods are being offered on
the buffet before filling your plate. Fill half of a small plate with
simply prepared vegetables and fruits, one-quarter with carbohydrates
and the remaining quarter with lean proteins.
- Make healthier substitutions to your favorite dishes. Many of your favorite
holiday dishes can be made with healthier alternatives that are more nutritious
and lower in calories, sugar and fat. For example a healthy swap is oven-roasted
sweet potatoes with coconut oil and cinnamon instead of serving candied yams.
- Never go to a party hungry. Take the edge off hunger by eating a healthy,
filling snack beforehand so you won’t overeat at the event. Consider
snacking on a cup of fruit with one ounce of lowfat cheese or ½
cup of plain Greek yogurt.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day, including a glass before the
party. It will fill you up and offset dehydrating drinks.
- Make a healthy dish to share. Bring your own low-calorie foods to the party
as an alternative. Instead of apple pie, try baked apples topped with
raisins, pecan pieces and cinnamon.
- Practice mindful eating. Mindful eating involves paying close attention
to your hunger level by eating slowly and pausing between meals. Eat slowly
and be aware of when you feel pleasantly satisfied so you can stop before
you become stuffed. Savor each bite and enjoy your food without feeling
- Control your stress levels. Keeping up with the demands of the holidays
can be stressful. Stress can increase an individual’s cortisol levels,
a hormone released by the body in response to stress. Chronically high
cortisol levels may cause weight gain, as it’s been linked with
greater food intake. Practice techniques to reduce stress, such as exercise,
meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
- Limit liquid calories. Consume alcohol in moderation, if at all. Alcohol
can increase your appetite, yet it reduces the number of fat calories
you burn for energy.
- Don’t hang out by the buffet table. Serve your plate, then move away.
Before going back for seconds, wait 15 to 20 minutes for your food to
“settle.” It takes that long for your stomach to tell your
brain you are full.
- Make time for physical activity. You shouldn’t feel guilty for indulging
during the holidays, but make sure you balance your extra food intake
with physical activity. It’s a great opportunity to spend some quality
time with friends and family while going for a walk together or engaging
in a different sort of physical activity together. Savor the special time
you’re spending with loved ones.
- Lastly, avoid the “I’ll start tomorrow” mentality, which
can end up prolonging unhealthy habits. If you’re diligent, you
may find you’ve prevented weight gain and controlled additional
stress this holiday season. While staying on top of your weight goals
can feel daunting during the holidays, the above tips and tricks can help
keep you healthy, happy and weight-conscious! •
Dani Rodriguez-Brindicci, MS, RDN is the director of clinical nutrition
at Torrance Memorial. She overvees the inpatient and outpatient community
nutrition programs and has been working at Torrance Memorial for more
than seven years.