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While it may seem impossible to stay healthy during the holidays, there are some easy ways to put the seasonal weight gain cliché to rest. You can enjoy the holidays and be healthy at the same time. Lucky for you, it takes a lot of calories over your daily recommendation to gain a pound: 3,500 to be specific. On the flip side, you also have to burn 3,500 calories just to lose 1 pound. To lose 10 pounds, you have to burn 35,000 calories or just a short walk from Tampa to Minnesota! We’ve compiled tips and tricks to ensure you end the year on the right foot and kick start your New Year’s resolutions.

Are You Drinking Your Calories?
One of the quickest ways to improve your diet is by changing what you drink. Eggnog, sugary ciders and hot chocolate might be appealing this time of year, but they add hundreds of calories with each cup. Are soda or energy drinks a part of your daily diet? Switch to water. You will instantly lower your sugar intake and possibly make more room for food at your holiday feast. Drinking lots of water can also help you feel fuller and help control your cravings.

Skip the Takeout and Cook at Home
Make all your holiday foods from scratch. By cooking at home, you will know exactly what is going into everything you eat. Make substitutions where you can. Whole grains can be used in place of processed ones or try substituting ground beef with ground turkey or chicken. When baking, try unsweetened applesauce instead of oil, egg whites instead of whole eggs and black beans instead of flour in your favorite brownie recipe. 

Son helps mother with baking

Make smart substitutions when cooking at home.

Take Your Healthy Habits with You
Although holiday parties are a no-go this year, you still might attend family dinners where everyone brings their own dishes to share. If so, take this opportunity to add healthy options to the table. Think of vegetable-based appetizers, whole grain side dishes, lean meats and fruit-centered desserts. It’s a great way for you to help others eat healthy, too!

Plan Your Portions
“Portion sizes have more than doubled in the last two decades. Even the plates are bigger, so it’s important to consider how much we are eating,” said Diane Riccardi, clinical dietitian at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Fortunately, we carry a measurement tool with us all the time — our hand. One fist is the perfect size for one serving of starchy vegetables or fruit, one palm equals one serving of lean meats, nuts or beans while one thumb is the right amount for one serving of dressing or dessert.”

Another way to help with portion control is to try the three-bite rule: Only take three bites of the items you want to indulge in.  The theory is that the first bite is delicious, the second confirms the first and with the third bite, your palate has had its fill.  If you say no altogether time and time again, you might end up overindulging the next time your cravings hit.  If you make this promise to yourself, you can have a taste of all the things you really love.

Stay Mindful, Despite All the Distractions
“Slow your pace when eating in order to pay attention to your level of fullness. Putting our fork down to take a break between bites for a drink of water or conversation is an opportunity to recheck the appetite. Stop eating when you are 75% full instead of 100% or more,” said Riccardi.

Cut Out the Beer and Eggnog
Alcohol consumption can increase greatly around the holidays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discourages alcohol consumption, especially more than one drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males. Excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic diseases and other serious problems over time, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick, especially from COVID-19.

Man and woman dance in their home while wearing holiday sweaters

Grab your favorite dance partner and stay moving

Keep Moving Throughout the Holiday Hustle
Don’t forget to exercise this month, too. Don’t think you have time? Skipping the gym to avoid contact with others? There are still fun ways to stay active. Take a walk through your neighborhood for 45 minutes to see the holiday lights. Working from home? Walk the dog on your lunch break during the warmest part of the day. Ride your bike with your family and pick a local state park to explore. When in doubt, put on your favorite holiday jams and dance around the house for 30 minutes. There’s always a way to work in some activity to your day, so get creative, and add it to your schedule! 

Bring these tips into the new year with you, as well. Practicing healthy habits year-round will not only make you feel better, but also help your body stay strong for years to come.