Enjoy the Holidays and Eat Healthy – Yes, You Can Have Both

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Tips from UT Extension to Avoid Weight Gain While Enjoying Family Gatherings

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The holiday season is a time of spending joyful moments with family and friends, eating together, exchanging gifts and playing holiday movies and games. However, it’s also a difficult time of the year to eat healthy, and many adults gain weight through the holiday season. Following these tips from the University of Tennessee Extension can help avoid holiday weight gain while still enjoying the festivities.

“There are several simple habits that, if followed, can help us all avoid adding a few extra pounds through holiday meals,” says Soghra Jarvandi, UT Extension community health specialist. “The most important habit is to plan ahead and avoid skipping meals. It is harder to pay attention to portion sizes when we are hungry, so if we arrive at a party hungry, then we are more likely to eat more. Plan ahead and eat a healthy snack, such as fruit, a salad, or yogurt before heading to a gathering,” says the expert.

Jarvandi also suggests being physically active. “Burning the extra calories we inevitably consume during the holidays can help. Incorporate physical activity in your schedule, whether it’s inside or outside, such as walking, dancing, or swimming,” she continues.

It’s also important to pay attention to your plate, says Jarvandi. “Choose a smaller plate to start with, as eating smaller servings can help curb caloric intake. For example, a one-fourth cup of stuffing has 59 calories, while a one-half cup of stuffing has 118 calories. That adds up.”

What’s on your plate is also important, so Jarvandi suggests filling your plate with a balanced selection of food groups: half vegetables and fruits, a quarter protein foods (such as lean meat, beans and peas) and a quarter grains (such as bread, rice, pasta). Vegetables help you feel full and avoid overeating. Choosing fruit for dessert can help curb calories as well, but if a high-calorie dessert, like cake, is calling your name, eat a very small slice and eat mindfully.

Giving healthy snacks and foods as gifts is another way to make eating more manageable. Stuff stockings with healthy snacks, like nuts or dried fruit and bring salads, fruit trays, or other light dishes to potlucks and family meals.

“As the Center for Disease Control suggests, healthy eating is all about balance and moderation, and that’s important to keep in mind during the holiday season,” concludes Jarvandi.

For additional help and programs specifically about healthy choices, contact the family and consumer sciences agent at your local county Extension office. You can also visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website at fcs.tennessee.edu

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.  utia.tennessee.edu.

Media Contact

Soghra Jarvandi

Department of Family and Consumer Sciences