Unhealthy Holiday Eating Can Be More Harmful Than You Think

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By Dr. David Samadi

The holiday season is a time for celebrating, relaxing, and enjoying time with family and friends. While it is the most wonderful time of the year, the foods that the holiday season are often surrounded by can also take a toll on your health. With all the dinners, parties, and events, increase in stress, lack of sleep, and overall business many people experience, it can be quite easy to let your health fall by the way side for a couple of weeks.

For the average person who is in generally good health, weight gain can be one of the most significant ways the holidays affects your health. According to several studies, people tend to gain about one to two pounds on average over the holidays. One to two pounds is likely for people who have a normal body mass index (BMI). However, if you are already overweight, you usually gain a lot more. One study found that overweight people gained five pounds or more during the holidays. To some, this may not seem like a big deal on a seasonal basis. But over the years, this can add up.

Holiday weight gain may seem like a small scale problem that can be fixed with a few extra hours on the treadmill. But not for all. Weight gain affects everyone differently and it can be much easier for some of us to gain additional weight, and much harder to get rid of it. Regardless of which type of person you are, unhealthy eating habits should be avoided by everyone. Not only does unhealthy eating cause weight gain, but it can lead to a whole host of health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. While one of the most exciting things about the holidays for many people is the range of delicious foods that are not normally consumed throughout the year, it is important to maintain control of healthy eating habits as a part of your regular lifestyle. And as long as you have strong self-control and exercise discipline, you may be able to sneak in a few treats here and there.

Here are the best holiday health tips to avoid weight gain and maintain control of your health:

• Be sensible. Instead of trying to lose weight over the holidays, just try to maintain it. The holidays can get so busy and it wouldn’t be fair to yourself to strive for something you know may not be possible given your schedule or holiday plans. Aim for that goal in the new year.

• Make time to get in as much exercise as possible. In addition to maintaining your weight and preventing weight gain, exercise can be beneficial in relieving holiday stress. By getting a moderate amount of exercise on a daily basis, you can balance any increase in holiday eating. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.

• Never skip meals. Some may benefit from eating three well-balanced meals a day, while others may find it easier to eat five to six smaller meals throughout the day. Do what works best for you, but don’t skip meals. Before going to a holiday party, snack on something healthy to avoid overeating once there.

• Eat until you are satisfied, not sick. Stick with smaller portions, and eat a variety of foods. Make sure to include some vegetables on your plate.

• Watch what you drink. Drinking alcohol can increase your desire to eat, and can make you feel more inclined to choose unhealthy foods. Other drinks such as soda can be bad too as they often contain many calories and are full of sugar. Stick with water, or low calorie drinks.

• BYOF. Bring your own food. When invited to a party, most hosts would appreciate their guests bringing additional dishes to the party. At your next holiday party, try bringing your own healthy dish.

• Cook healthy holiday meals. If you are hosting a holiday dinner, try cooking your usual holiday dishes in an alternative lower in fat and calories form. There are many ways to make traditional meals taste delicious and just as healthy – it just takes some research and effort. This will not only help you eat healthy, but your family and guests as well.

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