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7 Tips to Avoid Overeating During the Holidays

Sweetness in Practice Contributor - Dec 18, 2014
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As a registered dietitian and communications expert, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be serving as a healthcare advisor to the Truvía® sweetener brand. In this role, I’ll be providing healthcare professionals with information that may be useful when working with consumers interested in improving their health and wellness.

This first article will focus on the research about how much weight is really gained during the six-week holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, and simple steps to help avoid overeating during the holidays.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—but it’s also the most challenging time to stick to a healthy lifestyle. With sugar cookies, shortbread, gingerbread men, eggnog, spiced cider and more, “healthy” isn’t the first word used to describe holiday favorites.

While the popular media likes to say that Americans gain some 5-10 pounds during the holidays, research shows otherwise. In fact, a recent review published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, reported that holiday weight gain, on average, is just .5 kg or about 1 pound. However, there is a wide variation in average weight gain, with overweight or obese individuals often gaining significantly more weight than average-weight individuals during this time of year.

Holiday weight gain may seem insignificant, but it represents the bulk of weight gain for the entire year, and few people ever lose the weight they gain from overeating during the holidays. Five or ten years later, it’s no surprise when someone is 5-10 pounds heavier and at increased risk for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

But holiday weight gain isn’t inevitable: With a few simple tweaks, it’s easy to lighten up even the most decadent holiday recipes. There are lifestyle changes that can make it easier to stick with eating right—no matter how tempting the treats. Here are seven strategies to help everyone enjoy the festivities without gaining weight.

1. Rethink your drink
Beverages don’t contribute to fullness the same as equal calorie foods do, so one proven way to keep your diet in check is to limit liquid calories. Limiting alcohol helps even more because alcohol is high in calories and can stimulate your appetite while reducing willpower to resist decadent treats.

2. Use fruit purees
A great way to cut added sugars in recipes is to use fruit purees, like applesauce, or prunes or pears whipped into purees. You can easily replace up to 50% of the sugar in recipes by substituting the same amount of fruit puree, cup for cup, for up to half the amount of sugar.

3. Choose natural sugar substitutes
‘Tis the season to satisfy a sweet tooth, since many holiday favorites—cut-out cookies, peppermint bark, gingerbread men, fudge and snowball cookies—are sugary treats. When baking, it’s easy to reduce sugar in recipes by using Truvía® Cane Sugar Blend or Truvía® Brown Sugar Blend, which offer 75% fewer calories per serving than sugar or brown sugar—without sacrificing taste or texture. Use ½ cup of Truvía® Cane Sugar Blend or Truvía® Brown Sugar Blend for each cup of table sugar or brown sugar in your recipes. For example, these sugar cookies made with Truvía® Cane Sugar Blend have 20% fewer calories and 75% less sugar than the full-sugar version.

4. Go with the Greek
Sour cream is often used in holiday recipes but it packs in more than 400 calories per cup and is high in saturated fat. By using nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt, not only do you slash the calories in half, but you get a shot of protein to boot. In fact, just 1 cup of nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt packs in about 24 grams of protein—that’s the equivalent of 4 large eggs!

5. Try evaporated skim milk
Heavy cream is a common ingredient in holiday dishes but it has more than 400 calories per ½ cup. Evaporated skim milk has 50% of the water removed, making it thicker than skim milk, but with one quarter of the calories of heavy cream. At just 100 calories per ½ cup, using evaporated skim milk can help keep the same creaminess in mashed potatoes or creamy sauces.

6. Get enough shut-eye

Overbooked holiday schedules often mean loss of shut-eye. But insufficient sleep makes us more than tired; it can also increase appetite by impacting hormones responsible for hunger and satiety. One study reported that when individuals (18-40 years old) were sleep-deprived, they ate an additional 559 calories, on average, compared to subjects getting their typical night’s sleep. Experts recommend getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.

7. Add more steps

One way to counter the extra calories consumed during the holidays is to keep moving. Schedule exercise as part of the day. Be realistic with your exercise goals, and be consistent. For example, if you’re having trouble getting motivated, commit to at least 10 minutes of exercise per day. A 10-minute commitment may not seem like much, but it will help you start a routine.

Embrace small changes

Smart, simple changes can help keep weight in check. Adding more steps to your day; downsizing your coffee drink; switching to nonfat dairy products, and making sensible substitutions such as using zero-calorie Truvía® Natural Sweetener in place of table sugar, can help avoid overeating and make holiday treats taste great!

Learn more, view recipes, and request Truvía® Natural Sweetener samples to share with your patients today. »


References:

  1. Schoeller DA. The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight. Physiol Behav. 2014 Jul;134:66-9. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.03.018.