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How to avoid putting on those 'holiday party pounds'

Most of us know that eggnog, shortbread cookies, mini sausage rolls, turkey stuffing and mini mincemeat pies aren’t exactly "diet foods". But the December holidays come around only once a year – shouldn’t we let loose and gobble up all the gingerbread men and candy canes we can get our hands on? Some research suggests that most individuals of a healthy weight will gain about one pound during the holiday season. However, people who are already overweight or obese tend to gain more like five pounds over the holidays. Now, if we all stuck
with our New Year’s resolutions and ramped up physical activity or maintained a healthy diet the other 11 months of the year, then the annual holiday weight gain wouldn’t be a concern, but the issue is that this additional pound – or five pounds – over the holidays typically accumulates year, after year, after year. Despite our best intentions, a few pounds gained in December aren’t – for most of us – counter balanced by a few pounds lost in the months that follow. Here are 10 tips and tricks for staying healthy this holiday season:

1. Beware of the never ending glass of wine:
Often at holiday parties, especially those hosted at restaurants or hotels, servers cheerfully wait at every corner
to refill your wine glass every time you take a sip. Before you know it, that one or two glasses of wine you planned on having turns into a whole bottle!

2. Ramp up physical activity and weight training in December:
If you know you’re probably going to overeat during the holidays, try to fit in a quick cardio workout or strength
training session as often as you can – whether it’s at the gym, at home, or outside. Even just a 20 minute jog over your lunch hour or a series of squats or push ups in the morning can boost your metabolism, burn excess Calories, and help you manage your appetite (it’s also harder to rationalize eating the whole plate of cranberry goat cheese crostini after a great workout). Last minute gift shopping? Don’t drive from store to store, walk! 

3. Focus on your favourite holiday treats:
Don’t waste calories on foods that aren’t all that special, foods you can enjoy year-round. Instead, when selecting which bad-for-you-foods to indulge in this season, try to focus on special holiday treats – things you’ll truly enjoy – but watch portion sizes. For example if you love rum-spiked eggnog, have a glass and really enjoy it. But perhaps enjoy that glass of eggnog instead of that glass of cab franc you’d otherwise opt for, vs. in addition to. Holiday and celebratory beverages can pack a lot more Calories than you may think – one 500 mL
glass of eggnog can contain up to 800 Calories and 78 grams of sugar! If you love your grandmother’s Christmas cookies, turkey stuffing, or sweetish meatballs – go ahead, enjoy them – but then maybe pass up on the chips and dip or cheese board so you don't go overboard. 

4. Opt for hors d’oeuvres with higher protein:
When it comes to hors d’oeuvres, try to select those that are higher in protein vs. higher in carbohydrates. High-protein low-carbohydrate hors d’oeuvres tend to be lower in Calories. Examples include mini chicken skewers, shrimp with cocktail sauce, or tuna tartare on cucumber slices. 


5. Don’t arrive at cocktail parties starving:
If you arrive at an evening holiday party having not eaten anything since noon, it’s likely you’ll end up eating  less healthfully than you otherwise might. Make a point of having a small healthy, high protein, high fibre snack before heading out to your next party. For example, plain Greek yogurt with a handful of berries, raw veggies with hummus, or a cup of bean or lentil soup.

6. Scan then feast:
Before loading up your plate, scan the room to see what’s available. Start with a plate of vegetables, then lean meats, seafood, or other protein, and then carbohydrates – in that order. Try to eat slowly, taking the time to really enjoy each bite. The process of scanning the room and making informed food choices helps you take a step back and be more mindful.

7. Avoid mingling at the buffet table:
You may have enough will power to stand by the buffet table for several hours mingling without eating everything within arms’ reach, but many of us don’t. Fix yourself a plate of food – and then step away from the buffet table, go mingle somewhere else! Once you’ve decided you’ve had enough – stop. Pop a piece of minty gum, it may help stop you from mindlessly nibbling throughout the evening. 

8. Drink more water:
With holiday parties come salty foods and alcohol - both of which can dehydrate you. Did you know that even mild levels of dehydration can cause fatigue, mood and cognitive disturbances, slowed metabolism, and constipation? Try to make a point of drinking more water this season, it will not only prevent dehydration but will also help you manage your appetite – inadequate water intake can lead to over eating, not to mention headaches! Want to ramp up your water intake? Try our hydration challenge.

9. Don’t leave all your holiday treats on the counter for walk-by nibbling:
You are trying to be healthy, but you’ve been gifted boxes of Christmas cookies, peppermint chocolate bark, truffles, candy canes and other holiday treats. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, perhaps leaving these items on your kitchen counter will not induce sugar cravings. For many of us, however, it’s pretty hard (or nearly impossible) to resist temptation to overeat when sugar treats are always within arms’ reach. Enjoy your special holiday treats (in moderation), but store them out of sight. 

10. Plan ahead:
Plan your meals and exercise around holiday events. If you are planning to eat a lot of unhealthy food during a particular evening, try to eat an extra-healthy breakfast and lunch that day and make an extra effort to get more exercise that day.

Just because it’s the season of chocolates and cookies doesn’t mean that every day needs to be a write off! Enjoy the holidays but make up for it by putting a little more focus on your health during the months that follow. It’s important to note that what you do the other 11 months of the year is far more important than what you do for a few weeks over the holidays.







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