Holiday Weight Management Tips

  • November 26th, 2014
  • By Admin wpadmin
  • Comments : 0

By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

Another year has gone by and the holidays are upon us again.  No doubt those New Year’s resolutions for 2014 have long been forgotten, but why wait until this upcoming January 1st to start making changes to your nutrition and exercise habits?  There is no time like the present, so get out there and start working towards those 2015 goals now!  See below for some useful tips and strategies for enjoying all of those holiday parties without expanding your waistline.


It needn’t be said that maintaining your activity level is crucial for weight management.  Although you may be taking time from your regular work schedule, traveling, and generally being out of your usual routine, prioritize exercise and set a goal to move every day during the holidays.  Whether it is a 1-mile walk or a full day of skiing, the more you move the more you burn!  By committing to some form of activity each day, you increase the chance that once you get started you will find you have more time for it!  Keep yourself motivated by getting your family and friends involved, put reminders in your phone, post-up sticky notes encouraging yourself to go on a walk or run, whatever will work for you!


While incorporating exercise into your holiday routine is crucial, paying attention to what you eat is also important.  Unfortunately for us, it is a lot easier to consume a large amount of calories quickly than to burn them off!  However, you can most certainly enjoy some of your favorite holiday treats without doing too much damage.

  • Set Yourself up for Success
    • Be realistic with your weight related goals during the holidays.  Focus on maintaining your current weight, rather than losing, during this time.
    • Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods.  Over restriction can set you up for over eating later on.
    • Maintain some sort of routine or structure during the holidays.  Try to keep a similar sleep schedule, eat at structured times, and exercise on a regular schedule.
    • Make sure to have healthy foods on hand.  Keep these items readily available and in sight.   For example, keep oranges, pears, and apples on the counter, chop up fresh fruit for a quick and convenient fruit salad, chop vegetables for salad toppings.   On the other hand, don’t store holiday treats on the counter, put them away in the pantry where they are more out of your line of sight.
  • Be Prepared
    • Keep an events calendar so you know in advance when challenges may arise.
      • Don’t arrive hungry to an event.  Eat on a regular schedule and have a protein and produce based meal or snack prior to the event.
      • Bring a healthy side or appetizer option to holiday parties.
  • Prepare for any travel that you are doing, whether by plane or car, more nutrient dense snacks can help keep cravings at bay.
    • Car (pack a cooler)
      • Hard-boiled eggs, deli meat, string cheese
      • Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir
      • Oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, berries
      • Hummus + carrot sticks, mini peppers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas
      • Plane
        • Beef jerky & peanut butter packets
        • Fruit & nut trail mix
        • Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, etc.
        • Crackers, mini rice cakes, pita chips, granola
        • KIND/Lara/Rise Bars
  • Keep it Balanced
    • Stick to your optimal eating habits as much as possible.  Maintain balance between food groups (protein, vegetables, carbs/starches)
    • When dining out or going to events always use plates and utensils, avoid grazing as the calories can really add up.
    • Start your plate with veggies, fruits, and lean proteins. Use leftover space for starches.
    • Remember you don’t have to try everything!  Scan the choices first and sample a few of your favorites and leave the rest alone.
    • Allow yourself time before taking seconds, identify if you are truly still hungry for more.
    • Focus on mingling and catching up with old friends rather than standing by the food table.
  • Follow the 80/20 Rule
    • Moderation is key during the holidays.  Rather than depriving yourself, use the 80/20 rule and think about eating 80% “performance foods” and 20% “fun foods.”


Performance Foods: Provide carbohydrates to fuel workouts, protein to build and repair muscles, and necessary vitamins and minerals.

  • Turkey, ham, roast beef, nuts, cheese (in moderation)
  • Sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberries, rolls
  • Carrots, green beans, salads, veggie sides


Fun Foods: Higher in added sugar and fat, contain little or no vitamins, but provide enjoyment and satisfy body’s natural desire for certain tastes

  • Fudge, pies, cookies, chocolate, candy, whipped cream
  • Eggnog, hot cocoa, ciders



Lastly, don’t forget about monitoring those liquid calories!  Whether it’s from alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, it’s important to know that liquid calories do not provide our bodies with the same level of satiety (fullness) as solid foods.  If you enjoy sweeter beverages, keep the serving to one per event, maintain reasonable portion sizes (dilute with soda water/seltzer if able), and take the time to really savor and enjoy the flavor.  If you will be enjoying some alcoholic beverages try drinking water between each one to help pace yourself.  Hey, you might even be more likely to make that 6 AM Gut Check Workout the next morning!

Overall, the holidays are a time to catch up with family and friends, enjoy ourselves, and reflect on all of the things we are thankful for.  It is not a time for deprivation or guilt for what we eat.  Balance, moderation, and a little planning ahead will ensure a fun-filled holiday season that won’t derail your goals.  Plus, you will be one step closer to kick-starting 2015 on a positive note!

Happy Holidays!


Healthy Holiday Event Options

  • Yogurt based dip or hummus and veggies
  • Fresh fruit and cheese plate
  • Mini quiches
  • Stuffed peppers or mushrooms
  • Soups, stews, salads
  • Fruit drizzled with dark chocolate


Recipes (adapted from

Maple-Roasted Sweet PotatoesMaple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes


  • 2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½ in pieces
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl.  Pour mixture over the sweet potatoes, toss to coat.
  • Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes.  Uncover, stir and cooking, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown (30-45 minutes more).


Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onion

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onion


  • 2 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 sprigs thyme + 2 teaspoons leaves (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice


  • Bring a large pot of water to boil
  • If sprouts are small, cut in half, otherwise cut into quarters
  • Cook the sprouts in boiling water until barely tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain.
  • Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until brown but not crisp, 3 to 6 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel.  Pour out all but ~ 1TB bacon fat from the pan.
  • Add olive oil to the pan and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned (reducing the heat if necessary, about 4 minutes).  Stir in the thyme sprigs, salt, and pepper.  Increase heat to medium-high, add the Brussels sprouts and cook tossing or stirring occasionally, until tender and warmed through, about 3 minutes.  Remove the herb sprigs.  Add the bacon, thyme leaves and lemon juice and toss.


Riesling Baked PearsRiesling Baked Pears


  • 4 ripe pears, preferable Bosc, with stems, washed and dried
  • 2 cups Riesling or other fruity white wine
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 strips orange zest


  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pair they will stand upright.  Arrange the pears in a 9- to 10-inch pie pan or similar baking dish. Whisk wine and honey in a medium bowl until well blended; pour over the pears.  Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and orange zest to the wine mixture around the pears.
  • Roast the pairs, basting with mixture every 15 minutes until they are wrinkled and tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pears to shallow dessert bowls.  Pour the wine mixture in a small saucepan, bring to a boil.  Boil until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.  Drizzle over the pears and garnish with cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and orange zest.
  • Serve warm and try paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.