Holiday weight gain is a problem for nearly everyone. It can be incredibly easy to overeat during the holiday season. The spreads at holiday parties and buffets can present a wealth of tasty food options that could be detrimental to your waistline, such as cookies, fondues and cheese dips, chocolate fountains, fried appetizers, and more. Alcohol consumption can also lower your inhibitions and make you more likely to reach for tempting foods that you would normally avoid.
The following strategies will help you avoid overeating — whether you’re at home, at a party, or at a holiday work function. Find the strategies that work best for you, and employ them any time you experience temptation over the course of the holiday season.
1. Plan ahead
If you’re headed out to a party and you know you want some of Aunt Barb’s famous Apple Dapple Cake, make a plan beforehand to just have a small slice and balance that by avoiding the egg nog. We’re also big fans of having a smart protein snack (like our On The Go Bars) before you head out to avoid temptation!
2. Practice natural appetite control
Eating the right combination of nutrients can help you feel full longer. When your body is receiving the nutrients it needs in the form of healthy foods such as protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, you’ll be less prone to experiencing strong food cravings. Try to eliminate refined sugars and simple carbohydrates from your diet and replace them with healthy, filling meals. Try to include protein, healthy fat, and plant foods in every meal.
3. Snack on healthy foods and small portions throughout the day
Snacking on healthy foods and eating small portions throughout the day is one of the best ways to control cravings and lose weight. Although it may seem like snacking could result in higher food consumption and higher calorie intake, snacking on the right kinds of foods can actually increase your metabolism and cause you to burn calories faster.
Ideal types of healthy snacks that will keep you feeling full throughout the day include nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit. Buy bags of your favorite nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds, and mix them with raisins for a trail mix you can grab on the go. Buy seasonal fruits such as clementines or bags of mini carrots that are easy and convenient to snack on, and take them with you wherever you go.
4. Eat before going to parties
Going to a party with an empty stomach is just like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry — everything will appear tempting and you’ll be more likely to eat foods that you normally wouldn’t. No matter how busy or rushed you may be before attending a party, take some time to eat some healthy food before you walk out the door. There’s nothing wrong with being fashionably late, anyway!
If for some reason you are absolutely pressed for time, eat a banana or drink a hunger control shake. Remember that in most cases, any healthy food item you eat at home will probably be far better for you than the food being served at a party.
5. Bring healthy food with you
If you’re asked to contribute a food item, make sure it’s something healthy — such as a salad or vegetable tray. Load up on these foods first before sampling the rest of the buffet so that you’re less likely to overdo it with fattening, unhealthy foods.
6. Keep yourself busy
Engage in conversations, games, or other activities that are as far away from the food as possible. Simply holding a bottle of water can help occupy your hands so that you’re less likely to mindlessly reach for food.
7. Avoid keeping junk food out in the open
If your home is a flurry of friends and family constantly coming and going during the holidays, it may be convenient for you to keep bowls of candy, pretzels, chips, and other goodies on the counter for your guests to snack on. However, keeping food out in the open within view and within reach can also influence you to grab the same snacks when you pass by. Either keep all junk food out of sight and out of mind, or replace such goodies with healthier snacks such as fruit, nuts, and other types of healthy snacks.
8. Avoid second helpings
Although second helpings are often tempting (especially when your favorite mashed potatoes or prime rib is being served) they are usually still considered an indulgence and definitely not necessary, especially if you’re watching your weight. In a buffet setting, it might seem impossible to avoid second helpings, but if you’re picky about what you choose, you can still eat and enjoy foods you love without going overboard.
Before serving yourself, walk down the buffet line and scope the entire layout. Then, use just one plate to collect small portions of all the foods you want to eat. Be sure to limit the treats, and eat the healthier foods on your plate before moving on to the desserts.
9. Refrain from skipping meals
If you plan on going to a holiday event or party, you may be tempted to skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner before the party just so you can enjoy the party spread. But skipping meals may cause you to end up overeating or eating foods you normally wouldn’t as a result of being excessively hungry. Respect your body and provide it with the nourishment it needs throughout the day and before any holiday events by eating regular meals and healthy snacks.
10. Eat and chew slowly
There are multiple benefits to eating and chewing your food slowly regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight. First, chewing your food slowly and thoroughly results in better digestion and allows your body to absorb the nutrients it needs from the food.
Second, chewing your food thoroughly can indirectly help you control your portion sizes and decrease overall calorie consumption, as well as help you feel full sooner. Studies have shown that it takes up to 20 minutes for your brain to signal your stomach that you’re full, so give this process time to take place.
Eating and chewing your food slowly can also help you fully enjoy the taste of your food, including certain spices, texture, temperature, and flavors. When you savor each and every bite, you’ll feel more satisfied and guilt-free when it comes to sampling your favorite treats.
11. Brush your teeth
Brushing your teeth is a trick that can prevent you from eating extra food portions or consuming an excessive amount of alcohol. Most people find that brushing their teeth naturally deters them from wanting to eat extra food, especially once their mouth feels fresh and clean.
After eating, brush your teeth immediately to avoid consuming extra food, dessert, or alcohol. If you plan on going out, pack a small travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste that you can take with you, or keep mint-flavored gum on hand.
12. Stay active
This is an awesome time of year in Tampa to do some outdoor exercise. Jog on Bayshore with a friend, take the dogs for a longer walk and look at Christmas lights, or just play outside with the kids and enjoy that the humidity is finally below 90%!
13. Make Pinterest your friend, not your foe
Yes, we’ve all seen those 7 layer brownies on Pinterest … and guess what, they look good, but they’re not gonna do you any favors. Follow and pin healthy options and you’ll be jonesing for those instead.
14. Don’t get tricked by the red cup
Yes, we all love those red cups … what is it about them? The allure of the holidays and a warm drink? Who knows! But, you can get your red cup fix without the 450+ calories that come with some of those holiday drinks. Choose a hot tea instead, and relish that you still can get that warm, fuzzy red cup feeling without busting your waistline.
15. Focus on your goal
Where do you want to be come January 1st? Right on track or kicking yourself? A little discipline this month can pay off big time by not being one of those people who gains weight. Ask yourself where you want to be on January 1st and use it as your motivation!
These are a few tips that can help keep you on track throughout the holidays … because here in Tampa, we’ll be talking about bathing suit season again before you know it!
Want more healthy holiday tips? Download our free e-book to learn how to combat holiday stress and avoid other pitfalls that often lead to overeating during the holiday season.
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on December 19, 2018