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Here's Some Advice For Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain


KERA looks at real-life health issues in our series, Vital Signs. In this edition: all that rich or sweet food we tend eat more of at holiday time.

It can lead to weight gain for most us, and worse if you have diabetes.

Meghan Jardine, a registered dietitian with Parkland Hospital System, offers advice to avoid those problems.

Meghan Jardine’s tips to avoid weight gain during the holidays:

1. Avoid skipping meals.  Eat at least 3 meals a day (every 4 to 5 hours). Skipping meals makes it harder to resist all the high fat desserts and other foods that around during the holidays.

2. Load up on healthy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils).

  • Green leafy vegetables are loaded with nutrients that prevent disease.  Try a kale salad, roasted brussel sprouts, add chopped greens to a soup or stew.
  • Make half your plate non-starchy vegetables; carrots, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes, etc. Have a vegetable salad, soup, or stir fry as a side dish.  
  • Legumes are high in fiber that helps us feel full and keeps us from binging in between meals.  Studies are also linking legumes to longevity.  Top beans on salads, add to soups and stews, try hummus or black bean dip. 

3. Drink a lot of water; staying hydrated will help curb the appetite.

4. Get plenty of exercise.  If you can’t get to the gym or go for a long walk, try working activity into your daily life:

  • Try walking meetings: get out of the conference room and go walk outside or up and down the hall.
  • Take short 5-10 minute walks after meals, or walk during brief work breaks.
  • Stand at your desk (vs. sitting) and you’ll burn up to 200 more calories a day
  • Use the stairs and park at the furthest end of the parking lot.

5. Get plenty of rest. Many Americans are sleep deprived and that makes us consume more calories.   Sleep deprivation is linked to obesity.

6. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood glucose more frequently.  If your sugars are high due to a high calorie meal, take a walk (unless sugars are over 240 mg/dL for type 1 or over 300 mg/dL for type 2, check with your health care provider for specific recommendations).

7. Foods to limit or avoid to prevent weight gain:

  • Sugar sweetened beverages.  These beverages raise blood sugars and cause the body to store more fat; increasing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Try drinking more water or switch to diet drinks.
  • Fried foods, including chips.  Fried foods are not only high in calories; they increase inflammation, further increasing the risk of certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
  • Cakes, cookies, pies, and desserts.  Hard to avoid these during the holidays.  Plan these indulgences into your meal plan; take smaller portions, and eat slowly.  Following the tips above will help with cravings. For people with diabetes, they may have to reduce carbohydrates from healthier sources to avoid spikes in blood sugars. 
  • Processed meats and cheese.  High fat and processed meats are linked to diabetes and cancer.  Cheese is high in fat and calories, and can also be addictive. 
  • High fat sauces and dips.  Limit the amount because these add a lot of calories and fat.
Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.