December brings with it an abundance of fresh-baked Christmas cookies and more parties than most people attend throughout the entire year, making it difficult to make wise choices about the food we eat during the holiday season. But with an increase in stress levels, Christmas shopping, and food temptations surrounding us, it is important to be more aware of what you chose to eat in an effort to avoid emotional eating and weight gain.

Table with healthy meal

Long term, healthful eating helps to prevent obesity and other health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. Keep the following tips in mind to help avoid those unwanted extra pounds:

  • It is okay to eat the foods you crave, but if they are not healthy eat smaller portions. For example, eat a bite-sized dessert instead of a whole piece of cake.
  • Look for ways to reduce the calories in your cooking. Use low-fat, sugar, and butter substitutes and consider alternative dishes, like steamed green beans with slivered almonds instead of green bean casserole.
  • Lighter fare such as raw fruits and vegetables with low-fat dips and reduced-fat cheese and crackers provide color and nutrition without a lot of extra calories.
  • Never skip meals, especially before attending a holiday party. Instead eat low-fat, nutritious meals and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Also eat a snack, such as yogurt or whole-grain crackers with peanut butter, right before you leave.
  • To keep from mindlessly nibbling on food, stand away from the buffet table or appetizer plates after getting your food.
  • Maintain your physical activity routines. The winter world is a fascinating place to walk; bundle up to get outside and enjoy nature's winter show. And ask others to join you!
  • Keep plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables around for appetizers, salads, and snacking.
  • Try serving fewer dishes at holiday meals - then everyone will not be tempted to try every dish and you will be less stressed preparing fewer items. 
  • Make quality sleep a part of your daily routine. Getting a good night’s sleep will reduce your stress level, keep you more alert, and keep your appetite in check.
  • Remember that alcohol has more calories, ounce per ounce, than carbohydrates or protein. Eating small amounts of healthy snacks with the beverage of your choice can help you control calories and feel better the next day.
  • Monitor your weight. Research shows those who weigh themselves regularly do not gain as much weight as those who do not monitor their weight.
  • If you are concerned there will only be unhealthy options, bring your own dish to the party.

Above all, remember that the holidays are about your friends, family, and the celebration, not the food you eat!

photo © 2007 Jupiterimages Corp.