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November 21, 2006 > Holiday Eating Survival Tips

Holiday Eating Survival Tips

Dietitian Shares Secrets to Enjoying Holiday Fare without Going Overboard

It’s not Thanksgiving or Christmas Day that tips the scales – literally – in the direction of weight gain. If you’ve been trying to take weight off, or at least keep it off during the holidays, the battle begins as early as Halloween, according to Anna Mazzei, a Washington Hospital registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.

“The weather has changed, it’s darker earlier, people are inside more, they’re less active and they’re around food more often,” Mazzei says. “It begins at Halloween with candy around the house. People start to bake holiday treats. You also start to have the parties and potlucks at work and people bring food gifts, such as candies, nuts, and holiday cookies.”

On average, a person can gain as much as two pounds each holiday season, and over five years that can add up to a whopping 10 pounds, Mazzei says, because most of the time we don’t lose the weight we’ve gained during the holidays.

Good news!

The good news is that with a little planning and a few simple strategies, it’s easy to avoid common pitfalls that lead to weight gain over the holidays.

“The key thing is to decide where you want to spend your calories,” she says. “You can always make Christmas candies in July, so spend the calories on something you don’t usually get to indulge in. Also, many times people default to eating poorly because they’re tired from the stress of running around.”

To keep temptation at bay during holiday outings (and at home), Mazzei has the following tips:

Keep the high risk foods out of the house until the last minute before the party. Keep in the house easy to fix foods (e.g. frozen meals, canned low sodium foods) that are healthy and quick. Never go to parties or holiday dinners starved. Bring a calorie-controlled dish if you’re contributing a dish to the party. Move yourself away from the buffet table and mingle. Don’t let someone talk you into eating more than you should. Instead, say you are saving room for all the great dishes or offer to pack some up to take home with you.

“The concern with the holidays is there might be several chances to overindulge in one week,” Mazzei says. “It’s the repeat offending that’s dangerous. One of the most important things is to plan ahead. You can’t overindulge several times in a row and keep the weight the off. What makes it worse is that people are also probably less active during this time. If you’re less active, you’re going to gain weight without even indulging.”

Stay ahead of the game

By planning ahead and being aware that there are going to be endless opportunities to have treats, it’s easier to defend against the tendency to overindulge several times in one week.

“All the frenzied activities of the holidays can make it hard to be mindful of what you’re doing,” Mazzei reminds. “There are a lot of distractions to keep you from remembering to take care of yourself.”

Stay healthy all year round

Temptation certainly doesn’t end after the holidays. Mazzei says anytime you’re confronted with a cluster of celebratory social activities, such as summertime graduations and weddings, it’s important to be mindful of your eating habits.

Washington Hospital offers a variety of Health & Wellness educational classes and seminars focused on better health, including diet, weight loss, heart health and diabetes. To see a list of upcoming classes, visit, click on “For Our Community” and select “Health Classes & Support Groups” from the drop-down menu.

Eat Well This Holiday Season

Eating healthy during the holidays doesn’t have to be painful. Try a recipe, like the one below, that’s mouth-watering and calorie-conscious.

Crust-less Pumpkin Pie

1 can (15-ounce) solid pack pumpkin
1 can (12-ounce) evaporated skim milk
2 whole eggs
½ cup Splenda®
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground allspice
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. salt
½ cup graham crackers crumbs
8 tbsp. light whipped topping
Additional cinnamon, optional

In a mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, milk, whole eggs, sugar substitute; beat until smooth. Add the spices and salt; beat until well mixed. Stir in graham cracker crumbs. Pour into a nine-inch pie plate coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool, then garnish with a dollop of whipped topping and sprinkling of cinnamon if desired. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 8 servings Calories: 106 Fat: 2.5 grams Saturated Fat: 1 gram Carbohydrate: 16 grams

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