The weather is cooling off and the holiday season is rapidly approaching; fall is that time of year when dwindling daylight and a calendar packed with holiday parties and high-calorie foods often leads to weight concerns. But do you really have to be a party pooper to prevent an expanded waistline during the busy holiday season? Experts say no! Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to celebrate the season without gaining weight.
Nutrition expert Diane Quagliani, MBA, RD, can help shed light on some of the food and weight myths surrounding the upcoming holiday season.
Q: Most people gain 5 pounds during the holiday season – myth or fact?
A: Myth. The average weight gain during the six-week span from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is approximately one to three pounds. It takes an extra 3,500 calories over and above what you need to maintain your current weight to pack on one pound of body fat. Still, calorie consciousness during the holidays – and all year-long – is extremely important as the weight gained over the winter holidays isn’t typically lost during the year, which means those pounds can add up over the years.
Q: Traditional holiday foods are bad for your health – myth or fact?
A: Myth. Many holiday favorites are packed with nutrients. For example, sweet potatoes are high in potassium and fiber and are loaded with the antioxidant vitamin A, while cranberries are high in vitamin C. Prepare foods that are nutritious and satisfying yet low in calories. Reducing the amount of fat and calories in meals can also help prevent weight gain. Create healthier versions of favorite baked goods by using fat-free milk instead of whole milk and applesauce in place of oil. Sweeten your beverage, casserole or dessert with a low-calorie sweetener such as aspartame. To thicken a liquid without adding fat, use flour, cornstarch, yogurt, or non-fat evaporated milk.
For more sensible holiday eating tips, visit the recipe section.