Healthy Holiday Essentials: Skip Weight Gain and Guilt

By Victoria Ann Diaz
Victoria Ann Diaz
Victoria Ann Diaz
December 22, 2014 Updated: December 22, 2014

Whether it’s an office party, a happy hour with friends, or holiday celebrations with family, food is a way of bringing people together. It is often used as an expression of thanks and love.

According to the National Institute of Health, most people only gain a little weight over the holidays. Studies show that the average person only gains 1-2 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

It takes at least 15-20 minutes for our brains to signal that we are actually full, so sit, relax, and talk for a while.

Yet, many people may not lose the extra weight after the festivities are over. Over 10 years, that can add up to 10-20 extra pounds—and as we get older, it gets harder to lose excess weight.

Wishing people good cheer and celebrating with food should not be stressful. We shouldn’t have to dread a holiday party, fearing it will derail all of the health and wellness goals we so diligently followed all year. Simple modifications to our recipes and eating habits can help us have fun without the guilt or potential weight gain.

Holiday Party Tips

Whether you are the host or the guest, here are some holiday party essentials to help you navigate all of the tempting food and drinks. Check out these tips before you indulge in holiday festivities:

• Don’t skip meals. If you arrive at a party hungry, you will tend to over-indulge. If you are preparing food, make sure you have healthy snacks available.
• Don’t taste-test everything while cooking or baking.
• Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is a great way to stay energized. It also helps us feel full.
• Try baking recipe modifications like gluten-free or whole-wheat flour; fruit puree, honey, or agave as healthier sweeteners; and dairy-free alternatives such as almond, coconut, or soy milk.
• Enjoy healthy appetizers like fresh fruit with cheese and whole-grain crackers, raw vegetables with salsa or humus dip, spiced nuts, and homemade dried fruits.
• Use a dessert or salad plate to help with portion control.
• Limit alcoholic drinks, which add calories. Eggnog, for example, can contain as many as 450 calories per 8 ounces.
• Have fun staying mobile with an after-party walk or an old-fashioned dance contest.
• Be mindful of when you are hungry or full. Slow down when you’re eating. Take time to not only enjoy the wonderful food, but also engage with your guests. It takes at least 15-20 minutes for our brains to signal that we are actually full, so sit, relax, and talk for a while.
• Have dessert in moderation. Avoid a little sample of each by choosing your favorite. Alternatively, you can bring your own healthier version or have fruit.
• Keep away from leftovers by asking for help in the kitchen. Having help cleaning up will keep you from snacking on the leftovers.
• Send food home with your guests. Avoid keeping foods that will tempt you later.
• Stay in control. Stick to your food and drink boundaries. Allow yourself to say “thanks, but not right now.”
• Don’t skip your exercise routine. Cut down your workout time if you have to, but don’t eliminate it. If there is no time to exercise, be sure to use the stairs or park further away for a little walking.
• Keep your kids engaged and involved with holiday activities like stringing popcorn garland, making ornaments or decorations for the table, or helping in the kitchen. This creates great memories and traditions they can pass down to future generations. When adults and children have fun, no one will tend to eat out of boredom.
• Relax. Enjoy celebrations without the stress and be kind to yourself if you overindulge. Don’t sabotage yourself with guilt; just accept it and get back on track.

Holiday festivities and parties can make it a bit challenging to stay healthy, but with a little mindful preparation and some simple cooking modifications, we can still have a tasty traditional holiday celebration.

Have a deliciously healthy holiday celebration!

Victoria Ann Diaz is a certified integrative health and life coach and graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. In her Life Balance Health Coach practice, she supports clients with a mindful-living approach to health and wellness. For more information, visit

*Image of “Christmas party” via Shutterstock