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The holidays offer many opportunities to enjoy special, once-a-year foods and treats. But if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight, navigating the sometimes calorie-laden season may pose a challenge.
Mary Lestrud, University of Wisconsin-Extension nutrition education coordinator, encourages people to enjoy their food, but suggests eating smaller portions. “Take a small portion of favorite foods that may be high in calories or salt and enjoy each bite,” she says.
One way to reduce portion sizes is by using a smaller plate, bowl or glass, and serving spoon, says Lestrud. “It makes smaller portion sizes seem larger.”
Beth Olson, UW-Extension nutritional sciences specialist says research shows that the typical holiday weight gain is not as large as popularly believed, probably averaging around one pound.
However, Olson says there is evidence that people who are already overweight, or who have lost a good deal of weight in the past, may be more susceptible to dietary changes over the holidays when food is more readily available.
Busy holiday schedules may also contribute to weight gain by making it more difficult to find time for regular exercise and physical activity.
If a holiday buffet or potluck is in your future, be aware that when a greater variety of foods is offered, people tend to eat more. “The potluck or the buffet with many high-calorie foods may set the stage to take in extra calories,” says Olson.
Both Lestrud and Olson suggest taking a mindful approach to eating during the holidays and throughout the year. “Think before you eat…is it worth the calories?” says Lestrud. “Stop eating when you are satisfied, not full.”
Make time for healthy activity in spite of a hectic holiday schedule. Bundle up for a walk with a friend, go dancing or ice skating or treat the dog to an extra trip around the block.