The holidays are coming up soon, which means that people who are trying to lose weight will have to be extra careful. With all the office parties, family gatherings, and days when it’s too dark and cold to go outside, it’s tempting to just stay in and forget about being healthy.
If you want to lose fat, enjoy your holiday, and keep your sanity, follow the tips below. I can’t promise they’ll help you avoid your in-laws, though.
17 Holiday Diet Strategies
Thanksgiving is infamous for overeating and drinking, but that doesn’t mean you have to give in to those associations. The diet strategies below will allow you to both enjoy your favorite dishes while also minimizing your likelihood of eating a week’s worth of calories in one sitting.
Strategy #1 – Grab a Smaller Plate
Try using smaller plates at your next meal to help control how much you eat. Research has shown that when children use larger dishes (the size of adult dishes), they end up eating almost 50% more calories during that meal.
I don’t think you should only drink from tiny cups and plates, but I would encourage you to stay away from the really large plates. It’s more satisfying, psychologically, to go back for seconds with a smaller plate.
Strategy #2 – Load Up On Lean Meats & Veggies
Eating minimally processed lean meats and vegetable dishes will help you avoid overeating. It’s much harder to overeat healthy foods than it is to overeat unhealthy foods.
I was told early on in my fitness journey that eating chicken and broccoli wouldn’t make me fat because they’re not calorie-dense. It wasn’t until later that I realized this is because you would have to eat a lot of either one to consume too many calories.
Strategy #3 – Skip the Sneaky Sauces
Look out for sauces that have been added, especially those that are based on animal fat, oil, and mayonnaise. While they may taste good, they can add a lot of extra calories to what would otherwise be a healthy meal.
I’m not saying you should avoid healthy fats altogether, but you should be careful about pouring calorie-rich sauces on your food. A better approach is to put a small amount in a cup and then dip your food into it, so you get the flavor without all the extra calories.
Strategy #4 – Don’t Skip Dessert; Be Smart About Dessert
Choose your dessert wisely. Some fitness enthusiasts may tell you to avoid sweets all together, but I understand this is a holiday gathering.
Keep in mind these few things:
- The creator(s) of the dessert may be offended if you don’t at least try it,
- Dessert doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision, and
- Sweets are awesome.
When I’m cutting fat, I pick one or two of my favorite desserts and put them on a small plate. This way, I feel like I’m eating a lot of dessert, the chefs are happy to see that I’m trying their food, and I’m less likely to fill up a bigger plate with every dessert available (I have done this before and it’s not pretty to watch).
Strategy #5 – Stick With 1-2 Servings of Alcohol
Don’t drink too much alcohol. Most people who are interested in staying fit know that alcohol is not good for you. It has no Nutrients and is full of calories (7 per gram).
In addition, alcohol diminishes your ability to make sound decisions and, once you start to feel its effects, you’re more likely to make poor food choices and eat too much. If you still want to enjoy some holiday cheer, stick to 1 or 2 servings of dry wines, spirits mixed with calorie-free drinks, and/or low-carb beers.
Strategy #6 – Make a Short Term-Switch to Intermittent Fasting
If you want to control your calorie intake around the holidays, try intermittent fasting. This eating style allows you to have fewer, larger meals while still eating at a caloric deficit. Intermittent fasting is not a “magic bullet” to fat loss, but it can provide both physical and psychological benefits, such as increased testosterone, improved cellular autophagy/cleaning, decreased ghrelin levels, and less time spent preparing and thinking about food.
Note: This article provides additional insight on Intermittent Fasting.
There are several common fasting/feasting schedules, including 16/8 (Leangains), 20/4 (Warrior Diet), and 24/24 (alternate day fasting).
Strategy #7 – Weigh Yourself Regularly
Checking your weight often during the holidays can help you stay on track with your fitness goals and avoid gaining too much weight.
Weighing yourself regularly appears to be helpful in losing or maintaining weight.
Some people like to check their weight every day, while others prefer to do it only once or twice a week. Find a routine that works best for you.
Strategy #8 – Use the Buddy System
Many people find it easier to achieve their weight goals when they have a partner to pursue them with.
It can be helpful to find a friend with similar health goals over the holidays, as this person can help keep you motivated and accountable.
Open up to your friends, family, and co-workers to find someone who would be a good match.
Strategy #9 – Get Plenty of Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may be at risk for weight gain. That’s because when you’re tired, you tend to be hungrier and you may eat more. You’re also less likely to exercise.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you may end up eating more because your hunger hormone levels will be higher.
Not getting enough sleep can also lead to a lower metabolism, due to changes in your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a biological clock that regulates many bodily functions.
Strategy #10 – Employ a Second Helping Plan
If you decide to have seconds, only choose 1-3 of your favorite items and fill only half your plate. This way you’ll enjoy the flavors without overeating.
Choose smaller portions of food, especially if it is high in processed carbohydrates and fat. This will help you to feel like you are eating a lot without taking in too many calories.
Strategy #11- Be Active with Family and Friends
Many families enjoy sedentary activities like sitting on the couch and watching TV during the holidays.
If you’re inactive and overeat, you may gain weight.
walking with your family can help with weight control, since it gets your mind off food, and lets you bond with your loved ones.
Races are a great way to stay active during the holidays and connect with your community.
Strategy #12- Snack Wisely
There are often unhealthy snacks like cookies and other goodies available during the holiday season.
If you have easy access to treats, you are more likely to eat them even if you are not hungry.
The problem of overeating can be solved at home by not keeping tempting foods visible. However, this is more difficult in situations where you cannot control your environment, such as at work or a family gathering.
It’s a good idea to be aware of your snacking habits. If you find yourself eating just because there is food available, rather than because you are actually hungry, it’s probably best to avoid snacking altogether.
However, if you are hungry and need a snack, opt for real foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These environmental friendly snacks don’t contain added sugars or unhealthy fats — both of which can lead to weight gain.
Strategy #13- Practice Mindful Eating
Because people are so busy during the holiday season, they often try to do too many things at once, including eating.
The text is saying that if you eat while you’re doing something else, you’re more likely to eat too much. That’s because you’re not paying attention to your body and you won’t realize you’re full.
In order to avoid overeating, it is important to be aware of what you are eating and to not have any distractions. This includes things like work and electronics.
If you want to eat fewer calories, you should try to chew slowly and thoroughly. This will help you to better notice when your body is full and stop eating.
Before starting your meal, it can be helpful to take a few deep breaths in order to relax and keep your attention focused on your plate instead of your to-do list.
Studies have shown that people who are mindful of what they eat are less likely to gain weight.
Strategy #14- Control Your Stress Levels
The holidays can be a very stressful time for many people. Trying to keep up with all the demands can be very overwhelming.
Stressed individuals commonly have high levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s released in response to stress. Chronically high cortisol levels may cause weight gain, as they have been linked to an increase in appetite.
A stressful lifestyle may lead to more cravings for unhealthy food.
It’s important to keep stress levels down at all times, but especially during the holidays when you might be busy and around unhealthy foods.
There are many ways that can help you manage stress, including things like working out, meditating, doing yoga, and taking deep breaths.
Strategy #15- Modify Your Recipes
Weight gain during the holidays is largely due to eating high-calorie homemade foods.
However, you can lower the calorie content of recipes in many ways. Here are a few ideas:
- Replace butter with applesauce, mashed banana, or pumpkin puree.
- Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie substitute such as stevia,
erythritol, or xylitol.
- Add dried fruit instead of chocolate chips or
- Flavor dishes with herbs and spices instead of butter.
- Use cooking methods like baking, steaming, or grilling instead
- Substitute low-fat or skim milk for heavy cream.
cream cheese, sour cream, and mayo with Greek yogurt.
your treats with extracts like vanilla, almond, and peppermint instead of
butter and sugar.
- Use club soda or sparkling water in place of sweetened
- Flavor drinks with freshly squeezed lemon or lime rather than sugar.
- Cinnamon can also add flavor to holiday-themed beverages.
dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk in place of heavy cream.
Strategy #16- Cut Back on Taste-Testing
Many people find that they spend more time cooking and baking during the holiday season.
This can lead to weight gain because people tend to sample their dishes while cooking, and even small bites can add up in calories.
It is important to taste your dishes, especially if you are cooking for others. A tiny bite is probably all you need.
It’s a good idea not to cook when you’re hungry so you’re not tempted to eat too much while taste-testing your food.
Strategy #17- Draw the Line
During the holiday season, many people have an “I’ll start tomorrow” mentality, which can end up prolonging unhealthy habits. This type of thinking can prevent people from taking care of themselves during the holidays and can lead to developing unhealthy habits that are difficult to break.
If you want to lose weight, it can be helpful to set some limits for yourself regarding what you eat. It’s okay to turn down foods that you don’t want to eat because they don’t match your goals.
It’s possible that you might make a mistake or two.
People often give up on their goals after failing. However, it’s best to just move on and make a healthier choice next time you eat.
The bottom line
Although the holidays can be a difficult time to stay on top of your weight goals, there are multiple tips and tricks that can help you stay healthy, happy, and weight-conscious during this time of year.
The best way to stay healthy during the holidays is to exercise regularly and limit your intake of sugary treats.
If you’re careful with your eating and maintain a good diet, you may find that not only have you prevented weight gain, but you’ve actually lost weight during this celebratory season.