Countdown to The Little Black Dress

It’s that time of the year for parties, when everyone wants to look and feel their very best. Let me give you some tips on how to slip into style and avoid holiday weight gain.

 According to research, the average person attends 4 holiday parties between Thanksgiving and New Years. The bad news is that this weight tends to stick with us as we pack on more in the next year. Now is an ideal time to balance holiday indulgences with sensible eating. Instead of focusing on what foods and beverages to avoid, we should enjoy eating delicious nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese which provides us with us with key vitamins and minerals that Americans are lacking. I have four easy steps that can help viewers/audience zip through the holidays and zip their little black dress by New Year’s Eve.

1. First, we need to graze; not gorge. Many of us refuse meals and snacks prior to a party, so we can load up in buffet line. This can lead to a diet disaster! To prevent overeating, try a protein packed snack before you go. Some of my favorite pre party snacks include yogurt topped with granola, sliced apple with cheese or ½ peanut butter sandwich with a glass of milk.

2. Nosh on nutrient-rich foods. When you are navigating a holiday buffet, fill half your plate with brightly colored fruits & vegetables from the crudités tray. Choose a few cubes of cheese from the cheese platter with whole grain crackers. Then, round out your plate with lean protein like shrimp cocktail, sliced turkey or roast beef. Remember many favorite holiday foods are considered nutrient rich: Cranberries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants, nuts are a great source of protein, fiber and heart healthy monounsaturated fat, sweet potatoes boast vitamin A and beta carotene, and cheese provides a unique combination of nutrients including calcium and protein.

3. Control calories once we are at the party. It can be difficult, but is an important step in preventing weight gain. In fact, researchers from Texas A&M International University report Americans scarf down an extra 619 calories per day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Reducing calorie intake takes learning how to “perfect your portions.” Selecting small portions allows you to control your calorie intake yet sample the different tastes of the items offered. If you are hosting a party, consider a tasting party for your guests. A tasting party offers appetizers, desserts and beverages in smaller easier to handle party pieces. Recipes made with nutrient rich foods, such as low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, & yogurt is the first step to build a healthy diet.

4. You CAN fit exercise into your busy holiday schedules. Whether it’s a holiday or a work day, we should never take a vacation from exercise. Physical activity, especially aerobic activities (like brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming) can help relieve stress, regulate appetite, and burn up extra calories from holiday eating. If you find it hard to stick to an exercise routine, work exercise into your holiday preparations: instead of online shopping walk around the mall, park further away from the mall entrance and avoid crowd traffic by taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Make time with your family to enjoy a walk around the neighborhood to view the decorations. For good health, we need 30 to 60 minutes every day, including holidays.

Jump start the New Year with a new way of eating by shifting the focus from foods and beverages to avoid to foods you can enjoy.

Survive The Holidays Without Weight Gain

Tis the season to eat and be merry! And boy do we EAT! I did a little research, and the average American eats approximately 3,000 to 3,500 calories during Thanksgiving lunch / dinner (the actual meal). This comes to about 4,000 calories for the day in total. To put that in perspective, an excess of 3,500 calories equals one pound of fat. Many people gain a significant amount of weight during the holiday season; some people can gain as much as 5-7 pounds. The weight-gain cycle can easily continue throughout the winter months, and by spring you can have up to 5-10 lbs to lose. Hold that pace for a decade and you will have gained 50-60 lbs.

But wait! There is good news: While it can take a few to several years to gain 50-60 lbs, it can only take 6-12 months to lose it. The better news: you don’t HAVE to gain weight over the holidays! Here are some tips on how to avoid adding holiday weight:

1) Walk and Exercise More. Take a walk with the family after dinner or go outside and toss the football around. Inside activities could include playing video games that are exercise related such as the Wii Fit, or just helping clean up! Just twenty minutes of brisk walking can burn between 100-150 calories. That equals a cookie or soda in calories! You can even start a new holiday tradition of going hiking, ice skating, swimming in an indoor pool, working out in a gym, or taking an exercise class at an adult education facility

2) Eat Slowly. Eat very slowly and enjoy the flavors. Try to chew your food several times per mouthful. It’s recommended to chew 30-40 times! It will allow the “hungry- full” response from your brain to recognize that you are satisfied. It takes the brain about 20 minutes to let you know you are full.

3.) Drink Water. Water is going to naturally help you avoid eating as much if you drink a large glass 20-30 minutes prior to having a large dinner. Plus, water will keep you hydrated and help you burn fat more efficiently. Some people confuse hunger with dehydration. If you just drink a glass of water, that will often take care of the food yearning. This is not skipping a meal – just a way to work through temptation. You can figure the approximate amount of water you need a day by dividing you weight in pounds by 2. This will be the number of ounces you need a day.

4). Don’t let stress get to you! Don’t let stress trigger an overeating episode. Even though it’s easy to reach for “comfort food” when you’re feeling stressed out or when you’re under pressure, skip the urge altogether and try a completely different activity to feel better. Talk to a friend, take a walk around the block, or hit the gym to give your mood a boost and keep your mind off eating.

5) Brush Your Teeth after Meals. I read this somewhere and tried it. It works! Right after eating a meal, especially dinner, go straight to the bathroom to brush, floss, and mouthwash so that your mouth is feeling nice and clean – this makes it less appealing to eat more (especially before bedtime). Ever try to eat or drink something after brushing your teeth? Not tasty!

Beat the Freshman 15

“Freshman 15” originally referred to the typical number of credit hours a full-time college student takes each semester. But pop culture also claims it’s the number of pounds college co-eds gain their first year away from home. Research shows about 70 percent of students gain weight between the start of college and their sophomore year – but the good news is the “Freshman 15” has lost weight.

Fill your dorm room refrigerator with nutrient rich foods

College freshmen flunk when it comes to good nutrition. Results from a recent Tufts study show students should get an “F” in eating enough fruits or vegetables, a “D” in eating enough fiber-rich grains and a “C” in consuming enough calcium. On average college students consume only half of the recommended servings of dairy each day.  To make the dean’s list, freshmen must make nutrient-rich foods a priority. Choosing nutrient-rich foods, which provide a more nutritious bang for your calorie buck, is the best way to build a healthy diet.   For bone health, young adults require calcium and vitamin D, and dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt deliver both.  

Many factors can tip the scales, like hectic schedules, social eating and all-you-can-eat meal plans, but the biggest culprit may be late night snacking. One study found that, on average, freshmen take in about 500 extra calories between the hours of 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.  For late night snacks, I recommend sliced fruit and cheese, yogurt topped with sliced almonds or whole grain cereal with fat-free milk.   

Tips for stocking a mini-fridge:

Undergrads should stock up on these fridge favorites: baby carrots and celery, hummus, string cheese, fresh fruit, yogurt, drinkable smoothies, water, pudding, low-fat and fat-free milk and lean sandwich meat.  These are healthy snacks perfect for the on-the-go student, and many come in single serve options that can be packed for class.  

Exercise is important too!

For good health, college students need to exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week.  It’s easy to include fitness in college life with these five tips.  

  • Walk or bike to class. Be active on the way to class instead of taking a bus or car.
  • Go for a walk with friends. Stays fit and chat with friends at the same time. Instead of taking a shortcut back to the dorm, take the scenic route and get in a little extra exercise.
  • Take a fitness class as a course. This is a good way to include fitness and earn college credit.  Consider martial arts, dancing or aerobics to build muscle. 
  • Check out the college gym or wellness center. Most colleges have gyms that offer free services or reduced price memberships. Look for classes in yoga, cardio, kickboxing or dancing.  
  • Join an intramural sport. From volleyball to football, this is a fun way to meet new people and fit in exercise, too.

 Eating nutrient-rich foods, including low-fat and fat-free dairy, and exercising regularly can help students beat the dreaded “Freshman 15”.