Weight maintenance tips for holiday eating

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Leticia Hopkins
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Upon walking through the door, the smell of fresh-out-of-the-oven, warm sugar cookies command your attention. To the left is a table full of delectable desserts as your mouth begins to water you look a little farther down and there sits a table set with all of the finest holiday foods imaginable. You can feel your waist growing as you mentally take note of all the foods the holidays have to offer... leaving one question, "Where do I begin?"

As Air Force members, the holidays can be tempting and weight gain can be a problem long after they've come and gone. With a few healthy eating tips, it can be possible to enjoy the holidays' finest foods while still maintaining your weight.

This can be accomplished by not over-eating, doing everything in moderation and by making small changes in recipes that yield a bigger calorie savings, said Senior Airman Zarina Ostrowske, 23rd Aeromedical-Dental Squadron's Heath and Wellness Center diet therapist.

"Holiday eating is a celebratory time," said Airman Ostrowske. "It's traditionally a time to 'eat it up.'"

There's a lot of eating and gathering during the holidays, so people should focus more on not overeating, added the Airman. If the focus is on weight maintenance more than loss, they're not as likely to be discouraged after the holidays if they didn't lose any weight.

"Recently, the magnitude of holiday weight gain and its contribution to annual weight gain were examined in a convenience sample," said Airman Ostrowske. "On average, weight gain during the six-week winter period from Thanksgiving through New Year averaged about a pound.

"However, weight gain was greater among individuals who were overweight or obese, in which 14 percent gained more than five pounds," she added.

While exercise is important to keep pounds down or off, watching food intake, especially during the holidays, is important also.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, some foods are marketed as healthy, low fat, or fat-free, even though they may contain more calories than the fat-containing food they are replacing. This makes it important to read all food labels for nutritional information and eat in moderation.

Portion sizes have also increased," according to the CDC, because of larger portion sizes, people may eat more during a meal or snack, resulting in increased calorie consumption.

Eating healthy foods in the correct portion sizes help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, according to the CDC.

Here are some 'holiday eating' guidelines:

- Try to stick with low fat foods, like vegetable, fruit or deli meat trays

- Try to stay away from food tables to help avoid unconscious nibbling

- Limit trips to the buffet table

- Try to limit alcohol, instead switch it up with water or diet sodas

- Try something new

- Try to get involved in conversations

- Sip on beverages

- Stay away from egg nog

- Eat a variety of small portions instead of large single servings

- Eat a snack before attending the party, this helps to curve appetites

- Try not to over-eat everyday foods

In addition to being aware of calorie intake, altering food recipes to make them healthier can help keep the amount of holiday weight gained down.

"Small changes can mean a big a calorie saving, like cutting away the fat on meat, limiting the amount of butter used, and sauteing or steaming vegetables," said Airman Ostrowske. "Stay away from frying your foods, and instead of using cream, try skim or low-fat milk.

"With baked goods instead of frosting, use cool whip, fruit puree or powdered sugar. (As an alternative) to one egg, use two egg whites or cholesterol-free egg products to cut down on cholesterol.

Another important tip provided by Airman Ostrowske was to eat before shopping since mall foods tend to be high in calories. Also bring a healthy snack to munch on while shopping, to help combat hunger.

Shopping opens an opportunity to be active during the holidays, said the Airman. People should try to remain active even if it's just walking around to look at the neighborhood Christmas lights.

Along with being conscious of food intake, physical activity will help burn some of the unwanted extra calories the holidays often bring, she added.