Good news, bad news about holiday weight gain

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  12/12/2007 4:10:40 AM

Holiday News You Can Use Distributed 12/10/07

Most people face the holiday season with some fear of gaining weight. This is a good news, bad news situation, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

“The good news is that although many people gain weight from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, research suggests that the gain will probably be only 1 pound, not 5,” Reames says. “The bad news is that most people likely will keep that pound during the coming year.”

The average weight gain for most Americans is 1 to 2 pounds a year.

The nutritionist offers several tips to help avoid holiday weight gain:

– Be realistic. Instead of trying to lose weight over the holidays, strive to maintain your weight.

– Be selective. Think about what foods you really want to eat, which ones you will just sample and which ones you will skip.

– Watch portion sizes. A serving of 3 ounces lean meat, chicken or fish is about the size of a deck of cards or a checkbook. Check the cooked weight of your turkey portion with a food scale if you have one. A teaspoon of margarine is the size of the tip of your thumb to the first joint. One cup of mashed potatoes is a tennis ball; 1/2 cup is half a tennis ball. One-half cup of vegetables is the size of a light bulb.

– Eat a light, nutritious snack such as soup, fruit or cereal before going to a party to help curb hunger and make better choices.

– If you have two parties to attend, choose small portions at each.

– To avoid nibbling on food without thinking about it, move away from the food table after filling your plate.

– Try to eat a large salad before meals.

– Make vegetables take up half the room on your plate.

– Eat foods with a high water content: pasta dishes with added vegetables, soups, fruits and vegetables. These offer a way to cut back on calories and help you feel full and satisfied.

– Don't deprive yourself of your favorites. Make it a balancing act. Cut the salad dressing and go for a small slice of chocolate mousse pie. Or balance your favorites with low-calorie foods, such as vegetables with a small amount of dip or boiled shrimp with lemon.

– Eat slowly and savor each delicious bite of food. This will help prevent overeating.

If you're in charge of the menu or preparing items for the meal, make it healthfully delicious—and low-calorie, too

– Don’t forget physical activity. Physical activity is important all year round but can be especially helpful during the holidays when you may be eating more than usual. In addition to burning calories, physical activity helps build muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. In addition, physical activity can improve your sense of well-being and help reduce your stress level.

Reames offers these ideas to increase physical activity during the holiday season:

– Take a walk in the woods to collect foliage and pine cones for decorating your house and, perhaps, even your tree.

– Take a walk with friends and family after holiday meals. If your neighborhood is decorated, enjoy the time to admire the decorations.

– If you’re near a mall, try mall walking. Find out about special hours reserved for walkers. Do some window shopping and enjoy the decorations.

– Take time to play with your children. Try favorite activities such as biking, throwing the football, shooting hoops or roller-blading.

– Try some different activities – line dancing or an exercise video workout.

– During halftime of your favorite football game, join friends in a game of flag football. You can burn as many as 140 calories for every 15 minutes of play and only 71 calories for each hour of TV game watching.

– Celebrate your holidays by spending time with family and friends. Plan time to get together that does not revolve around food.

Reames recommends using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid as a guide to healthful eating (http://www.mypyramid.gov/). For related nutrition topics, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter homepage at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com.
On the Internet: USDA’s MyPyramid eating guide: http://www.mypyramid.gov/.
Contact: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929 or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu.
Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu.  

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