Dr. Wood: Plan ahead for healthy holiday eating

Holiday stress can lead to overeating and weight gain. One tip for keeping your snacking down at parties: Don’t linger by the food table.
Holiday stress can lead to overeating and weight gain. One tip for keeping your snacking down at parties: Don’t linger by the food table. Olympian file photo

We are speeding through the holiday season. Thanksgiving is behind us and the winter holidays are right around the corner.

For a lot of us, it is a fun and joyous time of year to celebrate with family and friends. For some folks, it can be a stressful time of year. Some may be facing their first holiday without a loved one. Others may become stressed with too much to do and not enough time to get it all done.

Regardless of the source, this stress can lead to overeating and weight gain. On average, Americans gain 1 to 2 pounds during the holiday season — not the 10-12 pounds you may have heard from your friends, or read about on the internet or social media. However, while those 1 to 2 pounds don’t seem like much, this weight gain tends to stick around over the next year. So if it happens for 10 years in a row, that can add up to 10-20 pounds.

Excess weight can decrease your tolerance to glucose (glucose is the simple sugar your food breaks down to after you eat, and which your body needs for energy). When your tolerance to glucose decreases, your risk for getting type 2 diabetes increases. Luckily, there are things you can do to help prevent type 2 diabetes.

It’s fine to enjoy your favorite treats during these special holiday times, but if you overdo it, you could end up feeling groggy and lacking energy to do all the fun things you want to. By eating healthy on most days, you will feel good and have more energy to enjoy all the season has to offer without the weight gain.

Here are five tips to eating healthier during the holiday season:

  • Don’t skip breakfast. Skipping the most important meal of the day can make you feel overly hungry later in the day and lead to overeating.
  • Do some physical activity most days of the week. Keeping active will help keep your appetite in check and also will burn some calories from your favorite treats. Why not go for a walk with the whole family?
  • Bring a healthy dish to the holiday party. That way you know there will be something you can eat that won’t make you feel sluggish later.
  • Don’t linger by the food table at parties. Ever hear the phrase “out of sight, out of mind?”
  • Enjoy smaller portions of your favorite treats. You don’t have to restrict yourself from the things you love. A few bites of your favorite treat will be much more enjoyable than eating it until you feel stuffed. Take a small amount and go back for more if you feel hungry.

To find out more about healthy eating, go to www.choosemyplate.gov.

Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, woodr@co.thurston.wa.us, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.