by Katie Haarala

Here they come, ready or not! Family, friends, fa-la-la-ing: What’s not to love? Oh yeah–those holiday pounds that come with all the FOOD! Food is EVERYWHERE during the holiday season; everyone is testing his or her inner-Rachael Ray, bringing treats to every social gathering. These treats send us into a sugar frenzy one moment, and then heading for the couch to enter potato-mode when that “high” wears off. 

On average, studies have shown that people gain about 1-5 lbs over the holidays +1 lb? Not so bad, you say? Well, one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, and if those calories aren’t expended beyond your daily caloric equilibriums by NEXT holiday season when you will probably gain ANOTHER pound (or five)–well, this trend could result in a weight gain ranging from 10-50 lbs. in the next 10 years.  Woops! Didn’t see that creep up!

Of course, holiday weight gain is not inevitable; it just takes a little strategizing, planning, and less pumpkin pie cheesecake (Darn you, mother, and your luscious dessert!)  Your main goal over the holiday season should be to maintain your weight.  You are given the “go-ahead” to enjoy the delectable deserts and dishes that are associated with the holidays.  Just do so in moderation. Moderation does not mean you can have a 3rd sugar cookie— No, I do NOT care if they are adorable snowmen with little confectionary carrot noses- put Frosty down!  Your waistline will thank you.  Ok, now that that’s settled – onward!

Here are just a few tips to allow you to enjoy the holiday season without having to let out your belt buckle:

**Try not to hangout by the food table.  You’ll find that Frosty’s alluring voice will be even stronger if he is within reach.

**Check out the entire selection of food before you start piling the goodies on.

**Find the items that you really want and choose those first. You may want the entire table of treats, but that doesn’t mean you can eat the entire table of treats. Stick with 1-2 that tickle your fancy the most.

**If you are the host or hostess, make sure to include healthy options for your guests such as vegetable and fruit trays with nutrient-dense dips like hummus.  It will add color and nutrition to plates full of calorie-dense appetizers.

**Do not try to “save up your calories” by skipping meals throughout the day. This will leave you famished and inevitably lead you to eat a few too many “Frosties.” Reminder: that carrot nose does NOT count for a vegetable.  Nice try,though.

**Sip water in between alcoholic holiday beverages or punches.  This will leave you hydrated and with less calories consumed by the end of the night.  It’s understood that a couple cocktails in, your “tough-as-nails-no-I-won’t-have-another-goodie” mindset will relax and turn into “hey-sure-why-not?-it’s-the-holiday-season! Cheers!”

**Stick to your healthy habits! Continue on with your exercise routine.  If you don’t have one, start. Seize the day, people! Continue with those fruits and vegetables I KNOW you are consuming every day.  Right? RIGHT!? Good.

**Turn those shopping sessions into an activity packed session, too! Burning the bank account AND calories at the same time! What could be better? Park in the farthest parking spot.  Turn the leisurely walk in between stores into a brisk, sweat-breaking venture that will make that piece of pumpkin pie eaten last night tremble.

**Understand that there will be a couple times throughout this splendid season where you will want to splurge a little.  That is FINE! As long as you don’t overdo it and plan accordingly the rest of the day. Make sure you get in a workout and have low-calorie, nutrient-packed fruits and veggies at the other meals of your day.

Mainly, just remember that you are in control and the holiday pounds are not inevitable. Be a smart planner and a smart eater; you can enjoy the holiday festivities without affecting your health or the scale!

Happy Holidays and Eat Intelligently, Friends!

To read more of Katie’s Health & Wellness Advice on intotheSoup.comClick Here

About Katie

Kathryn Paige Haarala is a registered dietitian (R.D.) from Minnesota who has an undying passion for nutrition education and helping others incorporate healthy dishes into their daily menu.  She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Food, Nutrition & Dietetics along with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Exercise Science. You can catch more of Katie on her blog by clicking here.