Thanksgiving ushers in the holiday season, and by the time the eating, drinking and merrymaking are over in January, most of us will be at least one pound heavier than we are today.

The average weight gain during adulthood is one to two pounds a year, making holiday eating – the eggnog, the turkey and stuffing, the potatoes and gravy, the cookies, cakes, pies and puddings – the culprit for much of what we pack on and keep on during the course of a year. According to a National Institutes of Health report, the weight that people gain during one holiday season’s worth of office parties and family get-togethers is typically still with them when the festivities roll around again. This can lead to obesity and an assortment of other health problems such as hypertension, stroke and diabetes.

It doesn’t have to be that way. With common sense and moderation, it is possible to enjoy this time of year without jeopardizing one’s health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest the following tips for keeping the holidays happy and healthy:

  • If you’re heading out to a party – holiday, birthday or otherwise – eat a light, healthy snack before you go. Broth-based soups, cereal with skim milk or just plain fruit are all good options. This will help curb your hunger and curtail your visits to the buffet table.
  • Modify recipes to reduce the amount of fat and calories. For example, when making lasagna, use part-skim milk ricotta cheese instead of whole-milk ricotta cheese. Substitute shredded vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini and spinach for some of the ground meat.
  • Bring a low-fat, holiday dish to the party. Need some suggestions? Visit the CDC’s Healthy Recipes for details.
  • While it is better not to snack in front of the TV – it is easy to overeat when you are focused on something else – if you must nibble, put the amount that you plan to eat into a bowl or container instead of taking straight from the package.
  • You’ve tried the leftover turkey sandwich, right? Now try the leftover turkey salad! Add a few pieces of turkey to a generous portion of mixed greens, tomatoes, raw broccoli or carrots. Toss with a light salad dressing. Add some dried cranberries for an authentic holiday taste.

Rethink Your Drink!

  • Choose water, diet or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened ones.
  • For a quick, easy and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
  • Limit your alcoholic intake. Alcoholic drinks can have many calories, especially holiday favorites like eggnog. Cut or limit your alcohol calories by drinking more water.

And don’t forget to exercise. provides a calorie counter to help you determine the number of calories you need to maintain, lose or gain weight, while the American Heart Association website offers a list of everyday activities and the calories they burn. Research shows that simple, consistent physical activity – a 30-minute brisk walk three days a week, for example – may be enough to lose close to one pound a year, assuming you haven’t been eating more than usual. Remember that it’s all about balance, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year as well.

Additional weight-related publications are available from the LHSFNA‘s online catalogue:Weight Matters and Becoming Physically Active.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]