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November 22, 2010

Eat Healthy Monday

According to a study published by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in 2000 in The New England Journal of Medicine, the average American gains about 0.8 lbs. during the six-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year's. While these gains may not seem drastic, this weight adds up year after year, and thus helps stimulate the significant increase in body weight that typically comes with age. Moreover, this weight gain is even worse for individuals who are already overweight and contributes to the growing obesity epidemic.

Maintaining healthy habits may seem challenging at times, especially with all of the enticing lures of the season. However, healthy holiday habits can help you enjoy the festivities of the holiday season without sacrificing your health.

As Sara N. Bleich, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, says, “To avoid gaining weight during the holiday season, eat all of your favorites but do so in moderation. Also, try healthier versions of the foods you love such as eggnog with skim milk or dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. ”

Here are a few more tips to consider this holiday season:

  • Exercise: Establish a routine during your extra time off work or school to not only help burn off the extra calories consumed during the season but also to make it easier to maintain New Year's exercise resolutions
  • Watch the beverages: alcohol, eggnog, and speciality drinks add significant calories to any person's diet, so make sure to limit consumption to moderate amounts and drink plenty of water instead.
  • Eat balanced meals: Make sure to represent a little of each food group at every meal. Not only will this limit the amount of calorie-dense, fatty, and sugary holiday treats you will want to indulge in, but will also make sure you are maintaining a nutritiously adequate overall diet.
  • Think ahead before parties: Do not skip meals in preparation for big events, as this will cause you to be extremely hungry and be more tempted to overeat. Once there, choose small portions of only your very favorites and stop when you are full.
  • Bring healthy foods: Whether bringing some carrots and nuts with you to shop at the mall or some mashed cauliflower and roasted butternut squash to Thanksgiving dinner, you will help ensure that there are always tasty and healthy options available. Plus, you may even interest others in maintaining healthy holiday habits too!
  • Stick to the first helping: While you may enjoy your favorite foods in moderation, be sure to limit additional servings. As Dr. Bleich adds, “For a lot of folks, second and third helpings can be their downfall during the holidays.”
Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.