Celebrate a Healthier Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 3:25 PM comments (0)

holiday eatingAre your waistbands a little tighter each year when January arrives? It’s not just your imagination. Studies show that the average American gains between one and two pounds during the holiday season, and up to 14% of Americans gain five pounds or more. This fairly small gain tends to increase body fat percentage, which may partially explain why we often have the illusion of a more significant increase around the holidays. 

Holiday parties, rich holiday food, the cold weather keeping you indoors and holiday stress can all contribute to this seasonal weight gain.  And, though the gain may be modest, for many it could stick around for the rest of the year.

Weight loss doesn’t have to be a New Year’s resolution this year. Start your year off right with these simple tips from Jeni Panicko, RD, LDN at NorthShore, and enjoy the holiday season full of health and zero regrets:

Focus on maintenance not weight loss. Enjoy the holidays! If you start out trying to deny yourself the food that you enjoy, you’re likely to overindulge eventually. Don’t try to lose weight during the holidays; try to maintain your weight. The holidays can be stressful enough without the added pressure of a diet. 

Have a healthy snack before you head out the door. Holiday parties are a great time to catch up with friends and family, but they aren’t the best place to find healthy snacks. When your favorite high-fat holiday fare is on offer, it’s not easy to practice moderation, especially if you show up hungry. Eat a healthy snack before you hit the buffet line to avoid overindulging. If you don’t have time to eat beforehand, grab a small plate and ensure most of it is filled with healthy fruits and veggies. 

Keep moving! The weather outside might be frightful, but don’t let that keep you from staying active during the holiday season. There are many outdoor activities that not only embrace the cold but are big calorie-burners for the entire family, like ice-skating and cross-country skiing (no hills required). Make these family activities and you’ve started a new healthy holiday tradition. Keep it simple, layer up and go for a walk; take the stairs at work before your holiday days off instead of the elevator; do your holiday shopping at the store instead of online. 

Don’t forget your fruits and vegetables. Seasonal fruits and veggies aren’t just a summer thing. Apples, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks and pumpkin are all in season during the colder months of the year, and they can be prepared in a multitude of healthy and delicious ways. Fill your plate and don’t regret it.

Make some small substitutions that make a big difference. Healthy substitutions can make a huge difference when it comes to calories and fat. Use lower-fat ingredients in your holiday cooking to create healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods.  Consider substituting skim milk for whole. In many baked goods, applesauce can replace oil. And the best thing about making these healthy substitutions is that, in terms of taste, you won’t notice a thing. 

How to you maintain your weight during the holidays?

Start the Year Off Right – Set Reachable Goals

Thursday, December 27, 2012 9:03 AM comments (0)

Reachable-GoalsI am going to work out for an hour every day. I will lose 20 pounds in the next three months. I’ll be back down to my weight in high school by the end of the year. Do any of these goals sound like your own for the year?

If so, and you have a thoughtful plan on making it a reality – good for you! If you tend to say the same thing every year and don’t see the progress you’d like, this year try to set an attainable goal with key milestones to keep you on track and motivated.

Thomas Hudgins, MD, a physician at NorthShore and a triathlete, gives the following suggestions for setting health and weight goals you can stick to this year:

  • Choose activities and exercise routines that you enjoy. You will find that you’ll be much more likely to stick to a routine if it involves doing something that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy running, choosing a weight-loss routine that focuses heavily on running probably isn’t going to be something that you’ll stick to long-term. Remember, activities as simple as walking and going up the stairs can help get you on track.
  • Don’t stress out about the numbers. While it is good to check your progress on a scale from time to time, don’t let the numbers rule your success. Getting into shape may involve weight loss, but it also involves muscle strengthening and toning.
  • Be flexible. Be willing to change things up, if needed. It’s great to have a reachable goal in mind, but it’s just as important to be able (and willing) to make adjustments to your routine to help you get there.
  • Partner up. Working out with someone else can help keep you motivated. If you don’t have a family member or friend that can join you, consider participating in a class or group workout activity.
  • Set short-term goals. While keeping your long-term goals in sight, don’t forget to set short-term goals and reward yourself periodically for reaching those closer milestones.

What goals do you have this year? How do you plan to stick to them?

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