Research suggests that Americans gain an average of 2 to 5 pounds over the winter. This contributes to a person’s average net weight gain of about one pound each year after efforts to lose the weight. A pound may not seem like a lot, but year after year this weight gain accumulates, and may have a negative impact on your health.

One pound is equal to 3,500 calories. In holiday terms, that’s an extra dessert 2 or 3 times a week this month! This is easy to do, especially considering the frequency of parties this month. Also, your resiliency to make healthy choices may be challenged due to the stress of the seasons.

You can do it! You can face the nutrition challenges of the holidays, and celebrate in good health. Having a plan is the key to taking care of yourself and managing your weight during this calorie loaded season.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain, and not gain, during the holiday season:

  • Drink plenty of water. Water does not have any calories compared to popular holiday drinks such as Eggnog, which can have approximately 340 calories per one cup! Water has many other valuable benefits, including keeping your skin hydrated during the cold winter months.
  • Eat regular meals. Don’t skip meals in order to “bank” the calories for sugary, less nutritious food and drinks.
  • Eat slowly. Many times people eat so fast that their stomachs do not have enough time to register that they are full. Savor each bite, enjoy the taste of the food and chances are that you will only eat what your body needs.
  • KEEP MOVING! Being active helps you manage your weight and stress. After a meal, go for a walk with your family to see holiday displays in your neighborhood or dance the night away to burn approximately 350 calories an hour.
  • Keep holiday treats such as candies and cookies out of sight. If these high-calorie foods are within easy reach on kitchen counters, end tables and desks, they become harder to resist.

While you are setting up goals for the season, it might be helpful to also set up goals for a particular event that you may be feeling anxious about attending. Having a party plan will put you in control.

Some tips for parties include:

  • Have something to eat before you go to the event so that you’re not gobbling your way through the dessert table. A cup of soup can be very filling, and acts as a perfect healthy deterrent for over indulging.
  • Bring a nutritious dish to a party to be sure there is a healthy option available for you.
  • Give yourself permission to fill up on veggies, healthy proteins and fats. Avoid the starchy, cheesy appetizers. If your holiday favorite is of the high-calorie type, enjoy it, but keep the portion in moderation.
  • Make your calories count. Skip common party foods like crackers, chips, cheese, and dips. Enjoy something special like pumpkin pie. If you drink alcohol, save calories by alternating alcoholic and low calorie non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Try to hold your party conversations at a distance from the food. Avoid a chat at the chip bowl and mingle!

Most importantly, enjoy the holidays, enjoy family and friends, and have fun without the added calories!

Sources: National Institute of Health, Nutrition Counsel, American Heart Association, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.