5 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Our weight management tips can help you enjoy your favorite holiday foods without packing on pounds

A plate full of turkey, stuffing, mash potatoes and green beans.

Our weight management tips can help you enjoy your favorite holiday foods without packing on pounds

The holidays are right around the corner and so are the heaping helpings that often come with them. Nutrition experts estimate that a traditional turkey plate with all the fixings has 3,000–4,500 calories. That may not sound too detrimental, but this does: A 160-pound person would have to walk 30–45 miles to work off that one meal. And who only eats one big meal throughout the holiday season? 


Fortunately, there are a few things you can do ahead of time to help you lighten your load – and still savor the seasonal flavors of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole or pumpkin pie.

How to prevent holiday overeating

“The most important thing you can do to avoid overeating over the holidays is take a few minutes by yourself before you attend events to strategize,” says Vikki Lane, MD, internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Carmel Valley


Dr. Lane has five recommendations to help keep the holiday feeding frenzy in check.

1. Plan ahead

Think through the spreads at holiday parties and dinners, and set limits as to what and how much you’ll eat. If you’re concerned about the offerings at a party, arrange to bring a healthy side dish. Or if you’re hosting, consider providing healthier alternatives to traditional foods. Simple swaps like skim milk in mashed potatoes, low-sugar cranberry sauce and baking with applesauce can go a long way without affecting the taste of your favorite dishes. With a bit of planning, you can cut both calories and fat without cutting taste or serving sizes.

2. Rethink your drinks 

The body processes calories from foods differently than from drinks. It’s much easier to gain weight from consuming sweetened beverages like wine or soda, so stick to no-calorie beverages like water (add lemon, cucumber, or orange slices for flavor), unsweetened tea and black coffee.

3. Back away from the buffet

Pile your plate with hot and cold vegetable dishes like steamed broccoli, roasted Brussels sprouts or squash – vegetables that are high in fiber are naturally filling and high in vitamins. Add minimal dressings, choose lean meat without the skin and select low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Also, decide in advance how many dessert items you’ll have and try to stick to that.

4. Slow down

Eat slowly and savor each bite.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

If you end up overeating anyway, reflect on what triggered you to eat more and focus on what you can do in the future when you encounter a similar situation.

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.