HEALTH & WELLNESS Nutrition recent-post2  >  7 Ways to Help Your Family Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays

7 Ways to Help Your Family Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays

7 Ways to Help Your Family Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays
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BY STEVE NUBIE

It’s not easy to keep the weight off when everything looks so good, but there are some simple tricks that you can use.

I’m a chef and I love cooking for family and friends during the holidays.  I’m also mindful of the fact that many holiday foods aren’t exactly the healthiest, but there’s more to it than calorie counts and carbs.

There’s all sorts of advice on the Internet about how to not gain weight during the holidays.  The classic advice is to eat in moderation, eat slowly, exercise regularly, and eat smaller portions.  That’s all good advice but how often do we really do any of that?

The fundamental problem is quantity rather than quality.  We tend to over-indulge on the bad stuff when holiday treats keep showing up especially at parties and family gatherings.

As a result I’ve done some research over the years and have designed a bit of a strategy and a plan to help my family and friends manage their consumption whether they know it or not. To be honest, it helps me too.  This isn’t about will-power and discipline, but managing fundamental human behavior as the host or guest at a holiday gathering.

1.     Some of this is obvious and some a bit subtle

The obvious thing you can do if you’re the cook in the kitchen is to strive to reduce fats and carbohydrates.  Using mono-unsaturated fats like olive-oil or canola oil, or simply reducing the amount of sugar in some recipes is a good starting-point.  But there’s also a point of diminishing returns.  People want food to taste good during the holidays and there are going to be times where you need to add the salt, pour on the sugar and wrap those dates with bacon.  At those times I use a subtler approach.

2.    Stage your buffet carefully

Most holiday gatherings result in a fairly large crowd and the food is served buffet style.  The place where the plates and silverware is stacked is usually the starting point and that’s where some clever staging comes into play.  I always put the salads, fruits like grapes, and vegetables first.  I like to serve colorful vegetables steamed in a stock.  I want people to start filling their plates with the good stuff.

As they move down the buffet they’ll eventually come to the turkey or ham or beef with the attendant potatoes and gravy, but the higher the calories and carbs the farther down the buffet are those platters or bowls with the hope that they’ll have less room to overfill their plates.

If we’re doing a table dinner I’ll start with a salad and light, broth soup and encourage everyone to start passing the vegetables before bringing the main course and the sides to the table.  What I’m trying to do is get them to fill up on the good stuff before they load up on the heavier stuff like meats, stuffing and gravies.

3.    Consider a break between appetizers and the main meal

This sounds hard to do, but it’s not.  I’ll simply store the remaining appetizers in the garage fridge at a certain point when we’re doing a buffet style, and try to encourage an activity that doesn’t involve eating.  Weather is a factor but conversation is always welcome and I’ll put out pitchers of herbal iced-teas, coffee and other light beverages to keep people busy while I finish up the main meal.

4.    Go easy on the alcohol

I don’t play the wine-cop but anyone trying to reduce weight gain should balance their alcohol intake.  It’s a primary cause of weight gain so offering refreshing alternatives like those iced-teas in addition to the open-bar is a good idea.

5.    Take a break before dessert

This isn’t hard to do either.  Most people are quite full after the main meal, but you shouldn’t feel the need to rush the desserts to the table or the buffet.  Coffee and hot tea is a good idea and maybe another activity to let people rest and digest.  If the weather allows, a short walk can help or maybe a little game of Frisbee with the dogs.

6.    Be generous with leftovers

Everyone loves a few leftovers and if you get them out of your fridge you’ll help yourself as well.  Of course, I always like a little something for us like turkey slices and my cranberry chutney, but the leftover appetizers and desserts are best distributed with family and friends.  The last thing I need in my fridge is 8 slices of cheesecake.  Maybe one or two, but not eight!

7.    Bring your own dish

If your invited to a holiday gathering the standard response to any holiday invitation is, “What can I bring?”  Regardless of what they say, make it light and healthy and maybe bring something else you can snack on or eat that is more in line with how you want to manage your weight.  No one will fault you for bringing a crudité plate of fresh vegetables and light sour cream dip, and you can always find a healthy alternative to that standard sweet potato recipe if that’s your task.

Let’s get real

Quite frankly, I expect to gain a little weight during the holidays.  After all it’s a time of celebration and the chill of January and February will bring more than its share of austerity and denial.  But we can overdo it so be smart.  Make it easier for your family and friends to manage their weight and while you’re thinking about it, maybe you will too.

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Steve Nubie
Steve Nubie has been writing professionally for 38 years. He is a published author with 10 books to his credit, has written for CBS Entertainment for the Twilight Zone series, and has written hundreds of articles for magazines and the Internet. He has served as Chief Creative officer in the marketing and advertising industry, was an Executive career-coach, is a chef and has traveled extensively living in Asia for two years, and London for two years.