7 Proven Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Family at holiday dinner

It's the season for revelry and cheer! But with beckoning desserts and snacks around every corner, it's easy for healthy eating habits to get lost in the shuffle. Pair that with cooling temps and hectic holiday schedules, and exercise plans often take a hit, too.

However, it's possible to survive the holidays with your wellness intact. If you're looking to avoid any extra weight gain, try these seven strategies this holiday season.

Read more: The 12 Most Unhealthy Holiday Dishes and Drinks — and Tips to Make Them a Bit Healthier

Credit: gilaxia/E+/GettyImages

It's the season for revelry and cheer! But with beckoning desserts and snacks around every corner, it's easy for healthy eating habits to get lost in the shuffle. Pair that with cooling temps and hectic holiday schedules, and exercise plans often take a hit, too.

However, it's possible to survive the holidays with your wellness intact. If you're looking to avoid any extra weight gain, try these seven strategies this holiday season.

Read more: The 12 Most Unhealthy Holiday Dishes and Drinks — and Tips to Make Them a Bit Healthier

1. Don't Skip Meals

Woman having French toast for breakfast

Especially when you have a holiday party or dinner with friends, you may feel inclined to skip breakfast or lunch to "save up your calories" for the evening. And while this may seem logical theoretically, it's usually counter-productive, says dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD. Often, you'll end up overeating less-healthy options.

Opt instead for a balanced morning meal of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fat, recommends Taub-Dix. Even a bowl of cereal will give you some satiety. This can also help you avoid overindulging on appetizers as soon as you get to your holiday party.

Credit: millann/iStock/GettyImages

Especially when you have a holiday party or dinner with friends, you may feel inclined to skip breakfast or lunch to "save up your calories" for the evening. And while this may seem logical theoretically, it's usually counter-productive, says dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD. Often, you'll end up overeating less-healthy options.

Opt instead for a balanced morning meal of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fat, recommends Taub-Dix. Even a bowl of cereal will give you some satiety. This can also help you avoid overindulging on appetizers as soon as you get to your holiday party.

2. Watch Portions and Prioritize Veggies

Woman eating vegetables at a holiday dinner

When you sit down to a holiday dinner, keep portion size in mind as you fill your plate, recommends SJ McShane, nutritionist and certified personal trainer. With appetizing holiday foods, it can be easy to overestimate portions and overindulge.

At the same time, though, don't let your goals get in the way of enjoying holiday treats and memories, advises Taub-Dix.

Filling your plate with plenty of vegetables can be a good method to overindulging in some of the less-healthy options, says McShane. Vegetables are high in fiber, a nutrient that helps keep your heart and digestion healthy. Fiber also slows the rate at which food is digested in the body, which will help keep you feeling satiated, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Read more: 6 Ways to Say 'No' to Holiday Food When You're Trying to Lose Weight

Credit: Anastasia Dobrusina/iStock/GettyImages

When you sit down to a holiday dinner, keep portion size in mind as you fill your plate, recommends SJ McShane, nutritionist and certified personal trainer. With appetizing holiday foods, it can be easy to overestimate portions and overindulge.

At the same time, though, don't let your goals get in the way of enjoying holiday treats and memories, advises Taub-Dix.

Filling your plate with plenty of vegetables can be a good method to overindulging in some of the less-healthy options, says McShane. Vegetables are high in fiber, a nutrient that helps keep your heart and digestion healthy. Fiber also slows the rate at which food is digested in the body, which will help keep you feeling satiated, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Read more: 6 Ways to Say 'No' to Holiday Food When You're Trying to Lose Weight

3. Make Time to Move

Sporty girl doing push-ups exercise at home

The holidays are busy and hectic and after a night of seasonal drinks and treats, hitting the gym may not sound so appealing. But making even a little time to move — whether it's a walk, bike ride or gym session — can help you burn some extra calories and keep your digestion regular.

If you're short on time, McShane recommends that you utilize HIIT or tabata training. This interval style of exercise is quick and doesn't require a gym or extensive equipment. Not to mention, HIIT can keep your metabolism firing and calories burning even several hours after your workout.

Read more: A 10-Minute HIIT Routine That Will Torch Calories

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The holidays are busy and hectic and after a night of seasonal drinks and treats, hitting the gym may not sound so appealing. But making even a little time to move — whether it's a walk, bike ride or gym session — can help you burn some extra calories and keep your digestion regular.

If you're short on time, McShane recommends that you utilize HIIT or tabata training. This interval style of exercise is quick and doesn't require a gym or extensive equipment. Not to mention, HIIT can keep your metabolism firing and calories burning even several hours after your workout.

Read more: A 10-Minute HIIT Routine That Will Torch Calories

4. When in Doubt, Bring Your Own Dish

Healthy vegan or vegetarian ingredients and dishes in glass containers

Some holiday parties severely lack in healthy food options, but you shouldn't let that concern you. Volunteer to bring a favorite healthy side dish or dessert to the party, says Taub-Dix. This will not only help you stay on track but may even encourage family members to add a healthy side to their plate.

"Maybe bring a beautiful medley of fruit, maybe bring a salad, maybe bring a vegetable dish," says Taub-Dix. "Just so you know there's something there that you could make the star of your show, and then have other 'supporting cast members' of foods that may be richer and higher in calories that you also enjoy."

Read more: 10 Desserts That Won't Derail Your Diet

Credit: Foxys_forest_manufacture/iStock/GettyImages

Some holiday parties severely lack in healthy food options, but you shouldn't let that concern you. Volunteer to bring a favorite healthy side dish or dessert to the party, says Taub-Dix. This will not only help you stay on track but may even encourage family members to add a healthy side to their plate.

"Maybe bring a beautiful medley of fruit, maybe bring a salad, maybe bring a vegetable dish," says Taub-Dix. "Just so you know there's something there that you could make the star of your show, and then have other 'supporting cast members' of foods that may be richer and higher in calories that you also enjoy."

Read more: 10 Desserts That Won't Derail Your Diet

5. Find an Accountability Buddy

Friends jogging in the winter

Although everyone is different, having a buddy to keep you accountable could help you stay motivated, McShane says. Whether you're struggling to stay on track with your nutrition or exercise (or both), talk to a spouse or friend who may have similar goals.

"I believe the more motivation and accountability you have, the better," she says.

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Although everyone is different, having a buddy to keep you accountable could help you stay motivated, McShane says. Whether you're struggling to stay on track with your nutrition or exercise (or both), talk to a spouse or friend who may have similar goals.

"I believe the more motivation and accountability you have, the better," she says.

6. Eat Mindfully and Pretend You're in a Restaurant

Friends having dinner at retaurant.

You've probably heard of mindful eating — bringing awareness to what and how much you're eating — but I think we'd all agree it's no easy feat, especially with all the enticing treats available during the holiday season. Taub-Dix recommends pretending you're in a restaurant at your next holiday dinner party in order to encourage more mindful eating practices.

When people eat in restaurants, they tend to eat a little more slowly and don't often order a second entree, says Taub-Dix. Even just pretending you're in a restaurant can call attention to the portions you're eating, the foods you're choosing and how quickly you're clearing your plate.

Credit: millann/iStock/GettyImages

You've probably heard of mindful eating — bringing awareness to what and how much you're eating — but I think we'd all agree it's no easy feat, especially with all the enticing treats available during the holiday season. Taub-Dix recommends pretending you're in a restaurant at your next holiday dinner party in order to encourage more mindful eating practices.

When people eat in restaurants, they tend to eat a little more slowly and don't often order a second entree, says Taub-Dix. Even just pretending you're in a restaurant can call attention to the portions you're eating, the foods you're choosing and how quickly you're clearing your plate.

7. Drink Responsibly and Strategically

Family clinking glasses at Christmas dinner

Seasonal beverages like eggnog or mulled wine can be high in sugar and calories, both of which aren't ideal for those looking to avoid holiday weight gain. Instead, opt for a standard glass of wine or seasonal beer to stay on track, recommends Taub-Dix.

Or, if you're really looking to cut back on alcohol, volunteer to be the group's designated driver. This will not only help keep you alcohol-free but will automatically transform your friends into accountability-enforcers.

Also, consider skipping pre-dinner drinks. Alcohol on an empty stomach can decrease your defenses more quickly, Taub-Dix says, which can make it more difficult to resist some of the more calorie-laden dishes on the table.

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Seasonal beverages like eggnog or mulled wine can be high in sugar and calories, both of which aren't ideal for those looking to avoid holiday weight gain. Instead, opt for a standard glass of wine or seasonal beer to stay on track, recommends Taub-Dix.

Or, if you're really looking to cut back on alcohol, volunteer to be the group's designated driver. This will not only help keep you alcohol-free but will automatically transform your friends into accountability-enforcers.

Also, consider skipping pre-dinner drinks. Alcohol on an empty stomach can decrease your defenses more quickly, Taub-Dix says, which can make it more difficult to resist some of the more calorie-laden dishes on the table.

How to Avoid After-Dinner Snacking

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