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Ask A Doc: How Can I Eat, Drink, Be Merry Without Weight Gain?

December 05, 2017

Q: What can I do to prevent myself from gaining weight during the holiday season? How much weight do people really gain during the holidays?

A: The holiday season can be challenging with the numerous food temptations surrounding us.  Many of us tend to eat more and exercise less during the festive season. So weight maintenance should be the goal, not weight loss. Mindful eating including portion control with increase physical activity will help with weight maintenance.

We often hear people reporting a range of weight gain during the holiday season of 5 pounds to 15 pounds. But studies show, on average, Americans gain 1-2 pounds during the holidays.

More: A Bariatric Surgeon’s Guide to Holiday Eating

Q: How can I stop myself from overeating during holiday dinners?

A: Try not to skip breakfast and lunch in order to save your appetite for dinner.  Keep to your regular eating schedule to avoid overeating.

Having a snack before heading out for holiday dinners will help curb your appetite. Snacks can include a piece of fruit, nuts or vegetable such as carrots, cucumbers or celery with hummus.

Q: How can I eat healthy and still enjoy holiday meals?

A: Try avoiding the “50 shades of beige” — the stuffing, turkey with gravy and potatoes on your plate. Make your plate as colorful as possible with beautifully cooked vegetables, hearty salads, meats and fruits.

Try to have your meats and vegetables before indulging on the breads and savory pastas.

The key is waiting 15 minutes between the vegetables/ meat and carbohydrates to savor the food and to allow your body to sense fullness.  Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed.

Q: I love my desserts during this time of the year. Are there any food items I should avoid?

A: Holidays are a time of celebration. Don’t be restrictive.

You can indulge on your favorite foods whether it is pumpkin pie or fruit cake, but be aware of your portion sizes. It may be helpful to have your desserts on a smaller plate so you don’t feel pressured to fill up on a larger plate.

Q: Any other holiday tips to keep in mind during the season?

A: Be careful of liquid calories. Alcoholic cocktails tend to be highly caloric and can induce overeating.  Try to alternate between cocktails and a glass of water to stay hydrated and prevent overconsumption.

Avoid “food coma.” After your meal, instead of turning on the television, buddy up with a family member or friend and go for a walk. Be active!

Dr. Devika Umashanker is an Obesity Medicine Specialist at Hartford Healthcare Medical Group.

Missed our holiday-dessert cooking class earlier this month? Get ready for a healthful New Year by learning how to prepare tasty, nutritious meals without high fat, refined starches and sugars in a four-week class in January at our new demonstration kitchen at the Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute at Hartford Hospital. The classes are offered Tuesdays starting Jan. 9 or Thursdays starting Jan. 4. To register (a $110 fee includes recipe ingredients), click here.