Avoid those extra pounds with six great tips from Summit County experts | SummitDaily.com

Avoid those extra pounds with six great tips from Summit County experts

Snowshoe gear propped against an aspen tree.

Christmas is around the corner, and among the many joys of the season are feasts and parties with loved ones, as well as the endless variety of food and drink. It's no surprise that the average person gains a pound or two during the holidays. Those pounds are often hard to shed, and the worry about losing them compounds our New Year's hangovers. Fortunately, there are some simple ways for revelers to be happy and healthy over the holidays, and to do it on a budget.

Whitney Horner is director of Summit County Public Health's Women, Infants and Children supplemental food and nutrition program and a registered dietician. One of the most important pieces of advice she has for clients and coworkers during the holidays is to simply enjoy the holiday, the people around you, and yes, even the food.

"A lot of people stress about what they eat during the holiday," she said, "and that gets in the way of actually having fun and enjoying being around friends and family and people you love."

Horner said that people should not spend an unreasonable amount of time during the holidays worrying about what they eat. Instead, they should savor the time, and abide by a few healthy guidelines to mitigate stress or avoid it altogether:

1. Avoid the 'all or nothing' or 'feast or famine' mentality

With the New Year around the corner, Horner says many people tend to leave their dieting for their resolutions, thinking it will offset their holiday indulgence. However, she says that is not a sound nutritional plan. Instead of looking at the holiday as a 'gorge period' that can be offset with dieting next year, we should look at the bigger picture. "People need to set themselves for success, and not feel like they're making up for failures on Jan. 1. Nutrition isn't black and white, and if you set yourself up for disappointment, that causes stress and makes it that much harder to lose those pounds."

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2. Don't settle

Eat the food you enjoy and appreciate it, but don't feel the need to eat too much of your favorite food in one sitting. "That food isn't going anywhere," Horner said. "If you want seconds, you can go and get them later." She also advised that if you don't like what you're eating, don't feel compelled to keep eating it. "If you're eating a plate full of food, and find yourself asking, 'Why am I eating this, it doesn't really taste good?' you don't have to finish it." If you don't want to insult or upset the host for eating less, eat more of your favorite things and offer compliments for them.

3. Don't skip breakfast

Horner said that in the effort to count calories, people might skip breakfast thinking it will offset the calorie overload later in the day. "A lot of us try to calculate the calories coming in and going out, and a lot of us are doing it wrong." Breakfast is not only the "most important" meal of the day; it's also the cheapest. A filling breakfast gives you energy to enjoy the holiday, and it also makes it less likely you will over-indulge later in the day. "If you go into a meal starving, you're more likely to make decisions you're unhappy with later."

4. Drink more water.

Horner stresses the importance of water during the holidays and throughout the year. It's free, it fills you up, and it works as a great companion to the many alcoholic and sugary drinks that get imbibed during the holidays. "You can alternate every glass of wine with a glass of water," she said, "and that helps slow down the consumption. We don't always realize how much those drinks add up." She also suggested volunteering to be a designated driver. It's not only a kind gesture for friends and family who want to enjoy themselves, but it also saves a lot of calories.

5. Make your plate colorful.

Eat and prepare more fruits and vegetables. The age-old adage about fruits and vegetables is more relevant than ever during the holidays. "Fruits and vegetables offer exactly the kind of fiber and nutrition that offset the denser food during the holidays," said Horner. Families on a budget get a double benefit: it's cheaper to prepare fruit and veg-heavy meals, and it's easy to shop for them as long as you have a plan.

Tamara Drangstveit, executive director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center regularly offers families advice about how to shop for groceries, and offers a helpful tip: Work around the edges. "The most important and nutritious food is usually on the outside edges of a typical supermarket," she said. "So your fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, grains, are usually along the sides and in the back, and that's where you should be getting most of your groceries."

A common misconception is that fresh fruit and vegetables are too expensive, especially in the mountains. Horner advised that families shop for fruit and vegetables that are in season to get the best bang for their buck. "Produce in season is also usually on sale, while off-season fruits and vegetables carry a premium."

6. Don't let food become the center of attention.

Going back to her most important piece of advice, Horner encourages people to not worry so much about staying healthy that they forget exactly what they should be enjoying: the people.

"Take time to visit with family members and friends, have those special conversations," she said. "Really focus on the people who you love and who you truly care about, instead of getting worked up about what you're eating."

Renee Rogers, fitness and wellness coordinator at the Silverthorne Recreation Center, also advised using exercise or even simple physical activity as a way to get the mind off food.

"Go snowshoeing instead of the cookie exchange. Take a walk after dinner. Go out and build a snowman. Shovel your driveway. Put on some music and get people up and dancing. Do something that's getting you moving."