The end of the year is packed with multicultural celebrations. It's a time for festivals, friendship, family gatherings – and plenty of food.A bulging waistline is something you might come to expect once January arrives, but a classic study of holiday weight gain showed that most people put on less weight than they imagine over the holiday season. The study found that the average person puts on 0.5kg (though this increases to 2kg for the overweight and obese). At a time of celebration, this holiday spread might seem okay when offset with all the fun you'll have, but the study also showed that this weight tends to stay, contributing significantly to creeping weight gain over the years.
Beat the Bulge Before it Begins
How can you avoid the bulge that's so common at this time of year? Small changes to holiday eating habits can make all the difference. Overeating has become a tradition at this time of year that leads to weight gain. But those extra pounds can be fended off by following some simple strategies.
1. Plan ahead
If you're going to a party in the evening, make sure your meals during the day are light and nutritious.
2. Sip wisely
Both alcoholic and soft drinks are loaded with calories. Have one serving of a celebratory drink and stick with water for the rest of the party to avoid drinking too many calories.
3. Set priorities
Instead of eating everything on the buffet, pick the foods you like the best, you don't usually eat, or the host's specialties. For example, pretzels are readily available throughout the year, while the dish from your secret family recipe is available only at this time of the year.
4. Bake healthier
Substitute calorie-laden foods for healthier versions.For instance, use unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter for your recipes. Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half, and use spices such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt to add flavor. You can also look for low-fat dairy versions to cut down on calories.
5. Distract yourself
If you're prone to nibbling, avoid standing close to the buffet.Socialize with friends at the other side of the room instead.
6. Make being active part of your holiday tradition
Have fun walking and talking with family and friends after a holiday meal and give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits such as workout DVDs, running shoes and reusable water bottles.
Get Back on Track after the Holidays
If your healthy eating plans do go awry and your clothes are fitting a bit tighter come January, try eating smaller portions every few hours to help balance out your macronutrients. It’s best to eat around 40% complex carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% good fats. Eat whole grains, but pair with a large portion of vegetables or salad. The trick is to avoid 'empty calorie' foods, such as crackers, biscuits, crisps, sweets, chocolate and white grains (bread, pasta and rice). These foods will not satiate you and will lead to you overeating. Instead, opt for nutrient-dense foods such as raw nuts/seeds, oats, avocados, lean meat, fish, eggs, brown rice, quinoa and green leafy vegetables.