Healthy Holiday Eating

Woman with fork in her mouth and devil on the right shoulder with angel on the left shoulder while she looks at cake and fruit

It’s that time of the year again! Family gatherings, parties, get-togethers and a LOT of food!!! It is important to remember that this happens every year. A research study, led by Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab as well as scientists in Finland and France, looked at year-round weight patterns of nearly 3,000 people in the United States, Germany, and Japan. The people who participated got new digital scales and agreed to weigh-in daily and have their measurements collected and analyzed.

The study found that the participants gained weight throughout October and November, and their weight peaked 10 days after Christmas. About half of that weight came off quickly after the holiday season ended, but the other half wasn’t lost until about five months later, after Easter. The findings were published as a research letter in the New England Journal of Medicine in September 2016. “Different countries celebrate different holidays, but many such celebration periods have one thing in common: an increased intake of favorite foods,” the authors wrote.

This increased intake of favorite foods leads to weight gain. This repeat cycle can keep adding pounds year after year. Therefore it is important to have a good strategy about eating, not just for the holidays, but year round.

Here are some tips to keep your holidays happy and your health under control for the coming New Year.

  1. Do not have negative feelings or go on a guilt trip. This is not the time to be on a strict diet, but it is a good time to work on avoiding weight gain. Be realistic and enjoy the holiday dinner! 
  1. Do make your traditional favorites otherwise those negative emotions will creep in and you will feel cheated. However, you may want to look into adding healthier sides or tweaking the recipes to use less sodium and fat. 
  1. Practice mindful eating. Do not skip meals to “save room for later”. Be aware of portion sizes. Eat and chew food slowly. Take sips of water between bites. Pick one desert to treat yourself, rather than taste-testing all of them. 
  1. Incorporate physical activity into your get-togethers with friends and family. Play charades or games; learn a new dance step -- anything that makes you move more. Go for a walk! 
  1. Remember to enjoy your friends and family. After all, that’s what the holidays are all about!

Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist, and works as a Clinical Dietitian with Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Hospital in Cary and Raleigh where she counsels the adult and pediatric population for a variety of issues such as weight management, diabetes, heart disease, IBS, autoimmune diseases, food allergies and intolerances. She also manages the monthly Celiac & Food Allergy Support Group at WakeMed Cary Hospital. She can be reached at 919-350-2351.