For many of us, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's
Day represents one big eating frenzy. Did you know that the
average weight gain during this period is between two and five
pounds? The holiday season is five weeks long, which equates to
about one-half to one pound of weight gained each week of the
season. It takes 3,500 extra calories to gain one pound of fat,
so if you gain five pounds this holiday season you've averaged
an extra 500 calories daily. This may seem like a lot of
calories, but consider the caloric content of some holiday
8 oz. nonalcoholic eggnog, 340 calories
4 2 1/4" homemade chocolate chip cookies, 320 calories
3 3" homemade frosted sugar cookies, 330 calories
1/8 of 9" homemade apple pie, 410 calories
1/8 of 9" homemade pumpkin pie, 315 calories
1/2 cup stuffing, 195 calories
1/2 cup candied sweet potatoes, 240 calories
As you can see from the examples shown, it is not too difficult
to consume an extra 500 calories per day during the holiday
Can you enjoy holiday foods without gaining weight? Believe it
or not, you can enjoy your favorite holiday foods without
gaining any extra weight. The key is to plan ahead and balance
holiday splurging with healthy eating and more exercise. One of
the most important points is to avoid starving yourself in
anticipation of a large holiday meal. Going hungry to a party or
dinner always leads to overeating and consuming an excessive
amount of calories. Eat a light meal or snack ahead of time so
you will not be overly hungry and tempted to overeat. Other
suggestions to help prevent weight gain during this season are
found in the "healthy eating tips" section on this page.
Choosing Lower Fat Foods
Another way to prevent holiday weight gain is to prepare lower
fat versions of your favorite foods. The following list can help
you lower the fat and calorie content of some of your holiday
If a recipe calls for sour cream, substitute plain non-
fat yogurt or low-fat sour cream.
If a recipe calls for cream, replace it with evaporated
When baking, substitute two egg whites for one whole egg.
Replace butter with lower fat butter substitutes on
potatoes or vegetables. If you do not want to eliminate butter,
decrease the amount that you would normally add to these foods.
When preparing mashed potatoes, use fat-free or reduced-fat milk
instead of whole milk, cream, or sour cream.
Try preparing your favorite foods using lower fat, lower calorie
recipes. There are many sources of these recipes, including
cookbooks and the Internet. Browse in a bookstore or surf the
net to find one you might want to try.
Exercise: Essential During the Holidays
The holiday season is a notoriously busy time for most people.
If you plan to indulge on holiday goodies, you need to make sure
you continue to find time for exercise. Not only will you burn
more calories, the exercise will provide a stress release for
you during this hectic time. If you know that you will be
splurging, increase the length of your run a day or two before
and after the party to burn extra calories. Running an
additional three to four miles per week will burn an extra 400
to 500 calories.
You can also burn more calories on a daily basis by increasing
your overall physical activity. Take the stairs at work instead
of waiting for the elevators. When shopping, park as far away as
possible from the entrance to the shopping center. Walk to the
Metro or bus stop instead of driving, or walk briskly in malls
when you are doing your holiday shopping. All of these calories
burned add up and may prevent the extra weight gain this season.
Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays
Do not avoid your favorite foods; instead, consume
smaller servings of your favorite foods, including desserts.
Do not stand where the food is being served and "graze"
on foods. Portion out the foods that you are going to eat.
Promise yourself that you will only go to the buffet table once.
If fresh vegetables and salad are offered at a party, be
sure to serve yourself generous portions. Limit the salad
dressings and dips.
Never go to a party hungry; this will always lead to
overeating. Eat sensibly during the day before parties.
Limit fried foods (chicken wings, egg rolls) and choose
lower fat foods instead (i.e., shrimp with cocktail sauce,
Avoid high calorie beverages (eggnog, punch) and choose
calorie-free beverages instead (water, seltzer water, diet
Watch your alcohol consumption; these calories really add up!
If you are hosting a party, be sure to send tempting leftovers
home with guests.
Avoid decorating your home or office with candy dishes and
Take low fat snacks (fresh vegetables, fruit, and raisins) to
munch on during the day instead of candy.
Avoid those areas at work where treats are kept, even if
it means not eating in the break room.
Denise Feeley, MS, RD, is available to respond to questions
or for personal consultations. She can be reached via