Monday Medical: Maintain a healthy holiday weight

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For many of us, the Thanksgiving holiday starts the season for company parties, family gatherings and neighborhood open houses. Traditional meals and tasty treats can be a favorite part of the holidays. This can mean weight gain between now and New Year’s Day.

The national average weight gain for an individual during this season is 6 to 8 pounds in just six or seven weeks.

To avoid unnecessary weight gain, here are a few tips for success:

■ Edge out hunger: Eat a piece of fruit or whole-grain toast, or drink a glass of tomato juice before the holiday party.

■ Station yourself away from the buffet food table at a gathering.

■ Focus on activities other than eating: Greet people you know and introduce yourself to those you don’t. Conversation is free of calories.

■ Avoid or limit alcohol: Choose water instead of alcohol or alternate between an alcoholic drink and a nonalcoholic drink during the gathering.

■ Be selective: Pass on the foods you can eat any day of the year.

■ Limit portions: Put less on your plate or fill two-thirds of your plate with veggies, fruit or whole grains.

■ When eating out at a restaurant, plan to bring half your entrée home with you. This will save calories and provide two appropriately sized meals.

■ Reach for the veggie tray before you hit the dessert tray.

■ Pop in a piece of gum or a breath mint when you know you’ve had enough.

■ Fuel up before you head out shopping. Shopping on an empty stomach may tempt you to buy calorie- and sugar-loaded treats. If you’re not hungry when you leave the house, take a healthy snack with you for later.

■ Stay well hydrated: The body often confuses thirst for hunger. Be sure to carry water with you as you’re out running errands or find a drinking fountains.

■ Wear comfortable shoes or boots: You’ll be less likely to sit down, rest your feet and eat.

■ Be creative when holding your own holiday gathering and put the focus on an activity rather than on food. Go snowshoeing, sledding, skiing or ice skating. Enjoy our beautiful outdoors and get some fresh air with friends or family.

■ If it’s peace and quiet that you seek to stay balanced during this season, try a yoga or meditation class or be sure to set aside at least 10 minutes of quiet time each day.

■ Freeze sweet treats such as homemade fudge, cookies, breads, cakes or pies and then enjoy them a little at a time after the holidays. Having an “out of sight, out of mind” strategy can help you control overeating.

■ Balance party eating and family gatherings with other meals. If you know you’ll eat more at a party that evening, eat less during the day. But don’t skip breakfast; start your morning with a small meal that includes some protein: milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs or whole-grain toast with peanut butter.

■ Do your best to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Fruits help satisfy your sweet tooth and vegetables help fill you up.

Traditional meals and tasty treats are part of your holiday season, and they’re meant to be enjoyed. If you make healthy food selections most of the time and stay physically active, you can enjoy your favorite foods in moderation and feel better.

Lisa A. Bankard, M.S., is director of Wellness and Community Education at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at lisa.bankard@yvmc.org.

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