Northwestern Medicine

Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

Northwestern Memorial Hospital December 13, 2011

Five tips for maintaining a healthy body throughout the holiday season

CHICAGO, IL – The holiday season can present a host of demands and temptations due to parties, family gatherings, shopping and entertaining. While unhealthy habits this time of year may be inevitable, experts from Northwestern Integrative Medicine say there are simple strategies to help you stay on track so you can enjoy the holiday season without excessive weight gain.

“Between busy schedules and an overabundance of snacks and treats, it’s difficult to stay focused,” admits Hannah El-Amin, RD, a registered dietician at Northwestern Integrative Medicine. “It is possible however to give a little without gaining a lot.”

Recent data suggests Americans gain an average of five pounds during the winter, due in part to an abundance of holiday feasts and parties where food and beverages are often high in calories and fat.

El-Amin regularly counsels patients on ways to focus on healthy eating habits, and offers the following tips for maintaining a healthy body this holiday season.

Plan ahead – Eat a healthy snack or light meal before attending holiday parties. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Doing so will help curtail your appetite and prevent overindulging.

Don’t skip meals – “A common misconception is that skipping meals will save room for large amounts of food later in the day,” said El-Amin. “Instead, this sets your hunger into overdrive and by the time you finally eat, excess hunger will make you more likely to choose food impulsively and overeat.”

Control your portions – Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Select small portions from a variety of foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, but don’t feel pressure to sample everything. You can still enjoy your favorite holiday treats while eating smaller portions.

Swap this for that – Balance out your meal by swapping fattening ingredients with lower-calorie options. Offer to make a dish to share that uses fresh, healthy ingredients or makes substitutions to lower fat and sugar.

Stay active – Incorporate fitness into your holiday celebration with exercise that is fun for the whole family. Take a walk after a large meal, play a friendly game of flag football, or build a snowman with the kids.

“The key to enjoying the holidays healthily is moderation,” added El-Amin. “Allow yourself to enjoy and indulge a little while still striving to make nutritious choices.”

Learn more about Northwestern Integrative Medicine or call 312.926.0779.

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