Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

In addition to educating patients at the Friedman Diabetes Institute, I also mentor nutrition students. One of them, Samantha Russo, a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has some advice on how to avoid excess weight gain over the holidays.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, not to feel guilty! Russo's tips will help ensure a healthy and happy new year:

Never Skip Breakfast

This is a very important tip when trying to maintain your weight throughout the holidays. Many people believe that if they skip breakfast, they're saving calories and will therefore be able to eat a large meal later in the day. This is not true. If you skip breakfast, you are more likely to be hungrier by the next meal and overeat.

Try a simple, healthy breakfast, such as an egg-white omelet with your favorite veggies and low-fat cheese, along with one or two slices of whole wheat toast. Another breakfast option is a nonfat (or low-fat) plain Greek yogurt topped with a handful of nuts and some berries. 

In addition to breakfast, eat a couple of healthy snacks throughout the day to ensure that your blood sugar does not drop, triggering you to overeat.

Balance Your Plate

Whether it’s your lunch at work or a big family dinner, try to create a balanced plate: one quarter lean protein, one quarter high-fiber carbohydrate, and half non-starchy vegetables.

Think colorful vegetables, which contain key nutrients such as beta-carotene (found in orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots) and lycopene (found in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes), and add a beautiful pop of color to your plate.

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Keep Up Your Exercise Routine

If you can’t squeeze in a workout early in the day, go for a brisk 30- or 45-minute walk with your family and/or friends before or after your evening meal.

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Don’t Be Discouraged

Even if you gained a few pounds over the Thanksgiving break and haven’t shed them yet, don’t use the winter holidays as an excuse to continue gaining weight, only to promise that you’ll lose the weight in 2014. Most holidays last only one day, so you can start correcting minor slips tomorrow—instead of next year!

Lastly, remember what the holidays are really all about: spending time with your loved ones. And although the holiday season is stressful, try your very best to remain calm, eat only when you are truly hungry, and maintain—or start!—a healthy exercise plan.

Shelley Wishnick is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator at Gerald J. Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Hospital. »