Maintain, don't gain

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Take charge of your weight this holiday season

Many Americans gain about 1 pound each year during the holidays. While that might not sound like much, it's hard to lose that weight. And over time it adds up.

Beat the odds with the following tips that can help you keep off the extra pounds this year.

Add “healthy” to every holiday helping

It’s that time of year when you and your family are inspired to cook your favorite comfort foods or sweet treats. But these high-calorie dishes can add up to holiday love handles. Thankfully, there are few simple tricks to turn any traditional recipe into a lower-calorie health food that’s still delicious.

Here are some easy ways to give your homemade dishes a healthy makeover. Try these out to help you manage your weight – all season long.

  • Go low. Swap low- or nonfat Greek yogurt for sour cream in dips, appetizers, and casseroles. Also, instead of full-fat cheeses, choose low-fat cheese.
  • Bring a backup. Be sure to bring your favorite healthy dish to the party. That way, if you don’t see anything healthy to eat, you’ve got your dish to help you stay on track.
  • Brighten up. Replace one heavy starch dish with a fresh fruit, bright vegetable dish – such as mixed greens or roasted asparagus.

Simple ways to sneak in fitness

The holiday season is one the busiest times of the year. Between parties, traveling, baking, and shopping, there’s not much time for exercise. And this is the season when you need it the most. It can help you beat stress, boost energy, and burn off all those homemade cookies.

Here are some smart ways to fit in fitness. Every step counts on your mission to manage your weight!

  • Move more. Use the stairs. Take a stroll at lunch. When you run errands, walk as much as you can. Basically, anytime there’s a chance to move, do it.
  • Make it social. Start a walking group at work. Keep your dog happy with a quick run. Catch up with an old friend or family member while you boost the health of your heart.
  • Break it up. If you don’t have time to exercise for 30 minutes, split it up into a couple of 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute walks. You will get the same health benefits.

Stay on track – wherever your travels take you

Travel can trip you up if you are watching your weight. But there are always ways to stay healthy and motivated – even when you are surrounded by tempting, high-fat foods.

Here are some tips to help you stick with a healthy food and fitness plan during your holiday travel.

  • Snack smart. If you are driving to your destination, be sure to pack healthy snacks with you, such as raw carrots and celery, hard-boiled eggs, or almonds.
  • Put healthy in the mix. If you’re helping out with a big family dinner, bring a vegetable side dish or salad to the table.
  • Know when to stop. Still hungry? Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you’re full. So if you think you want second helpings, take a break for 20 minutes, then ask yourself if you really want more.

Celebrate the season with ease

You may enjoy hosting holiday gatherings or entertaining out-of-town guests. But sometimes, stress can crash your party and ruin your weight management plan. Here are some simple ways to help you get back your balance – and handle whatever the holidays throw at you.

  • Unplug. Take a break from checking your phone and email. Instead, enjoy a long bath. Or, go for a nature walk (Exercise is a great stress reliever!) Just be present and happy in the moment.
  • Bust a move. Turn on your favorite jams and show off your best moves! Music has been shown to lower mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and even pain. Dancing releases endorphins (happy hormones) into your body.
  • Laugh it off. Laughing relaxes your body and clears your mind. Feeling anxious? Watch a comedy or spend time with a funny friend. A good belly laugh will wash your tension away.

Arm yourself with smarter snacks

Nutritionists agree that one of the best ways to maintain your weight is by eating small meals throughout the day, with healthy snacks in between. This helps keep your metabolism up and running, and lowers your risk of overeating at mealtime.

Try these easy tips to help you stay on track.

  • Visit your supermarket. There are plenty of healthy snack options at your neighborhood grocery store – just look around. Try edamame (soy beans), or air-popped popcorn.
  • Stock up on fruits. Fresh, seasonal picks are solid snack choices. Even canned or frozen fruits are healthy as long as they don’t contain added sweetener.
  • Tune in to your hunger. Snack when you’re genuinely hungry, and not because you’re stressed or bored. Also, try not to snack when you’re watching TV. It’s too easy to lose track of how much you’re eating.

Bring your party game plan

Holiday parties are the mecca of delicious, high-calorie foods – from cocktails and wine to cookies, chips, cheese, and more.

Here are some easy tips to guide you – so you can hit the party and still stick with your health goals.

  • Don’t arrive hungry. Eat a small, protein-packed snack before you head to the party. That way, you won’t be starving when you get there.
  • Pick and choose. Fill up your party plate carefully. Reach for healthy, high-fiber foods, like fresh, sliced veggies, roasted turkey, whole-grain crackers, and hummus.
  • Lose the booze. Think twice before you enjoy that glass of wine or festive cocktail. Alcohol is empty calories, plus it fuels your appetite. If you’re going to drink, alternate with water to help cut the amount of alcohol you drink.

Here’s to the new, healthy you!

Keep the healthy habits you’ve learned going, so you can maintain, not gain – plus work toward new goals – for the new year.

Here are some ways you can keep up the healthy work and keep off the extra weight.

  • Curb cravings. Reprogram your taste buds to ditch cravings for sugar, salt, and fats by eating real, fresh, whole foods. Keep tempting foods out of the house.
  • Go for 30. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Try walking with a friend to stay motivated.
  • Stay on the outside. Shop the outer aisles of the grocery store. It’s where you’ll find most of the minimally-processed whole foods – like fruits and vegetables, fish, chicken, and low-fat dairy products.

Reviewed by: Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD and Sue Heikkinen, RD, October 2014

© 2014 Kaiser Permanente