Ask an Expert: Ten ways to watch your weight over the holidays

Q: “This year, for once, I do not want to gain weight over the holidays. Can you offer some realistic advice that will still allow me to enjoy the season?”

Answer provided by Valerie Edwards, M.S., R.D., L.D., clinical dietitian, Providence Portland Medical Center: Yes, the holidays are upon us, but that doesn’t mean you have to repeat old patterns. This year, consider changing your approach to holiday eating and exercise, instead. With a little planning, you can enjoy the season without the weight gain. Here are 10 tips to see you through the holidays.

Eat, drink and be merry — in moderation

  1. Eat your fruits and vegetables first: Make a deal with yourself — promise to eat your daily fruits (1 ½ to 2 cups) and vegetables (2 to 3 cups) before you indulge in seasonal sweets and treats. Fruits and vegetables fill you up with high-quality, low-calorie nutrition. If there’s any room leftover, go ahead and have that treat — you’ve earned it.
  2. Dine before you dash: Before you head out to a party, eat a healthy snack, like some yogurt and a banana, or a small meal. With your hunger satisfied, you’ll be less tempted to overindulge in high-calorie party food, but you’ll still be able to enjoy a small dessert or a small plate of select items.
  3. Remember — location, location, location: Position yourself far from the buffet table, and focus less on the food and more on the people you came to see. When you do eat, linger longer at the beautiful fruit and vegetable platters.
  4. Savor slowly: Allow yourself a few special sweets and appetizers at holiday parties, but be selective, eat them slowly and enjoy them fully. Consider establishing a holiday plan, like allowing yourself one treat per day, so you won’t feel deprived, but will be selective about what you eat.
  5. Plan your potluck: When you are invited to a potluck, bring something healthy and low in calories that you’ll enjoy eating.
  6. Limit the liquor: Beer, wine and cocktails pour on the calories fast, so limit yourself to a drink or two when you go out (for good health, alcohol should be limited to one drink per day for women and two for men). Between — or instead of — alcoholic drinks, try sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice and a slice of orange.
  7. Say “no, please,” or freeze: Let well-meaning friends and relatives know that you are working on your weight, and ask them to reduce the size of their usual sweet gifts. If you can’t do that, then tuck their fudge and fruitcakes into your freezer to enjoy now and then, instead of all now.

Fit in some fitness

  1. Walk to shop: Do your holiday shopping in places designed for walking. If you go to a mall, park far away (as if you had a choice) and walk the mall a few times before you start your shopping.
  2. Get creative with indoor exercise: Find a place to jump rope on your lunch hour, walk up and down the stairs several times every couple of hours or walk in place while you watch TV. Even 10 minutes of aerobic exercise is better than nothing. (Check with your doctor first if you are new to exercise or if you have any major medical problems.)
  3. Celebrate the season — get out in it: Instead of inviting people in to eat, invite them out for an afternoon of walking or hiking, a day of snowshoeing or skiing, or an evening of strolling through the neighborhood to look at all the lights. ’Tis the season — get out in it!