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21 Tips to Avoid Weight Gain This Holiday Season

Between sweet treats and carbohydrate-filled comfort food, the holidays offer plenty of opportunities to gain weight. Not only do you have access to calorie-laden foods over the holidays, but you also have more chances to eat, whether you're attending holiday parties or snacking on items from your own pantry. If you want to avoid holiday weight gain this year, put some of these strategies to work.

1. Take a Little of Everything

Many people gain weight during the holidays because they don't want to feel deprived. However, you can prevent holiday weight gain if you keep your portion sizes small. Grab a little of everything and savor each mouthful. That way, you feel like you indulged, but you won't consume as many calories. You can even set a portion size limit for each meal.

2. Stick to Water

Not only do alcoholic beverages contain lots of calories, but alcohol makes you hungry. Drink water while you socialize at holiday parties or enjoy Christmas dinner. If you're in the mood for something a little more festive, indulge in a skinny cocktail or mocktail. If you can't resist your favorite bottle of wine, keep it to one small glass.

3. Make a Beeline for the Veggie Trays

Although dips and dressings often contain too many calories, you'll still lose holiday weight if you focus on vegetables at parties and other events. Every time you get together with friends, family, and colleagues over the holidays, look for trays filled with carrots, celery, broccoli, and other healthy snack foods. Do yourself an extra favor and enjoy these fresh eats on their own, avoiding the sugar- and fat-laden dips.

4. Make Snacks Harder to Reach

A plate of fudge on the kitchen counter makes resisting one more piece almost impossible. Follow the out-of-sight, out-of-mind maxim, and keep calorie-rich foods in the refrigerator or pantry. Make healthier fare a convenient choice, so you'll reach for it more often. For instance, a bowl of apples on the breakfast table might work beautifully.

5. Keep the Conversation Going

When you eat slowly, you get full faster. Take your time during holiday meals, and fill the lag between bites with joyful conversation. Not only will you avoid holiday weight gain, you'll also get the chance to connect with people you love and to create memories that will last a lifetime.

6. Devote Time to Exercise

Whether it's building snowmen with the kids on the front lawn or taking a morning jog before work, don't let exercise fall by the wayside this holiday season. Try to make exercise fun by including your family members and friends. Take a walk downtown or through your neighborhood to view the lights, for instance, or spend a couple of hours decorating your front yard for the holidays.

7. Maintain Your Schedule

One of the problems with the holidays is schedule disruption. When you don't eat on your normal schedule, you're more likely to overindulge. Similarly, many people skip meals so they can eat more at parties and other events, but this strategy actually leads to weight gain. Make time to eat meals as close to your normal schedule as possible, so you're not famished when you finally have a plate in front of you.

8. Use Smaller Dishes

A salad plate might serve you better than a dinner plate during the holidays. You'll fill the plate with less food, which should curb holiday weight gain. The same goes for glasses. Select small beverage containers, so you don't accidentally consume copious amounts of eggnog, hot chocolate, or wine.

9. Resist the Urge to Taste

If you're cooking the holiday meal this year, keep your own fingers out of your creations. While you're cooking, listen to holiday music or chat with a friend so you're not tempted to sample the treats. On the upside, you can exercise more control over the dinner table when you're the chef. Cook at least one or two healthy dishes so you have an alternative to the calorie-rich options.

10. Fill Up on Protein

Fish, beef, eggs, yogurt, and other protein-heavy foods help you feel full faster. Just make sure protein doesn't constitute more than 30 percent of your total diet. Add vegetables, complex carbohydrates, dairy, and other healthy foods to your plate for a well-rounded holiday meal.

11. Prepare Your Answers

Some holiday hosts like to push food on their guests. They want everyone to have a great time and to eat their fill — which is sweet, but not when you're trying to avoid gaining weight. Prepare a few responses in advance, such as, "Everything tasted great, but I couldn't eat another bite" or "I'm going to let my stomach settle for a while."

12. Use Buffet-Style Meals to Your Advantage

Many people gain weight over the holidays because of buffets. However, you can make this setup work in your favor. Fill your plate just once, and avoid piling foods on top of one another. Since you have to get up for seconds, you're more likely to stick to your first helping.

13. Wait 15 Minutes Between Helpings

Your desire to keep your waistline slim might not overcome your desire to indulge in more delicious treats. Instead of relying on willpower alone, commit to waiting at least 15 minutes between helpings. You'll feel more full if you give yourself time to digest, which might discourage you from returning to the buffet.

14. Practice the One-In, One-Out Strategy

Instead of forbidding yourself from indulging in your favorite treat, use the one-in, one-out strategy. If you have two desserts in front of you — fudge and cookies — which would you prefer? Indulge in that one, but don't touch the other. The same strategy goes for all elements of a holiday meal.

15. Practice the Buddy System

Find a friend or relative who also wants to avoid holiday weight gain. Encourage and motivate each other to keep your portions small and avoid high-calorie temptations. You'll have more fun over the holidays if you have a partner in crime, and you'll be able to hold each other accountable to your goals.

16. Keep a Pack of Chewing Gum Handy

It's easy to snack your way through a holiday party. To avoid this pitfall, pull out a piece of chewing gum whenever you get the urge to pop another treat in your mouth. It will not only keep you from eating too many goodies, but also from consuming too many calorie-laden beverages.

17. Keep Stress to a Minimum

Many people overeat in response to stress. It's a coping mechanism you should be aware of if you hope to prevent an expanded holiday waistline. Do your best to avoid stressful situations during the holidays, and don't let small frustrations dominate your thoughts. If you need help, turn to a friend, a relative, or even a professional to help you cope. 

18. Get Plenty of Sleep

Exhaustion can also trigger emotional eating. Put away the wrapping paper and Christmas card envelopes at a decent time every night. As the holidays approach, make sleep a priority, so you don't rely on caffeine and food to keep your energy levels up. Adding exercise to your routine will help, because you'll feel more tired at the end of the day.

19. Steer Clear of the Food Table

Whether it's a table full of goodies at work or the food table at a party, head for the opposite side of the room. You don't want to have sugary or fatty foods within easy reach because you'll likely snack unconsciously while you chat with friends or colleagues.

20. Start With Salad

Make a point to start every meal with a salad. Leafy greens help you get full faster and stay full longer. They are also nutrient-dense, which means added health benefits. After your salad, you can indulge in less-healthy fare, but you'll already have food in your stomach to prevent overeating.

21. Dress Your Best

If you only wear shapeless holiday sweaters, you won't feel bad about snatching an extra sugar cookie from the plate. Keep your motivation levels up by dressing to impress. You don't have to wear a formal ball gown or tuxedo every day. Just wear clothing that flatters your body type and encourages you to make healthy culinary choices.

Preventing holiday weight gain is the perfect way to start the New Year on a great note. While you might find it difficult to refuse your mother's famous fruit cake or the supermarket's bakery section, you can keep the pounds off by keeping portion sizes small, managing your stress levels, and thinking carefully about every food choice you make.