The average person gains about a pound each holiday season, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and some research indicates weight gained during holidays is generally not lost later in the year, adding up over the years. Here are some tips to prevent holiday parties from derailing your health goals and causing weight gain:

Before the Party

  • Try to avoid exhaustion. Generally, people who are not well-rested tend to over-consume – in any environment.
  • If you are unsure what’s on the menu, offer to bring a dish to help the hostess and to ensure at least one dish will be healthy.
  • Don’t skip meals early in the day to prepare yourself for a feast in the evening. Skipping meals can cause you to overeat to compensate for your hunger.
  • You can try to limit portions to reasonable sizes and eat lighter foods throughout the day, but do try to avoid going to the party ravenous.

Holiday foods

During the Party

  • When you first arrive at a party, don’t immediately start filling your plate. Take a trip around the buffet and make your choices after you have seen what is available.
  • If given choices, choose a smaller plate, like a dessert plate or a salad plate. Serving yourself on a smaller plate may help you eat less and feel more satisfied.
  • Generally, if you eat lower calorie foods early on – like fresh fruits and vegetables – you eat fewer calories over the course of the party.
  • Choose small portions of richer foods, like desserts or dips.   
  • Use vegetables instead of crackers or chips to scoop dip.
  • Take your time. Eating more slowly lets your brain recognize signals from your body that you are full, which can take up to 20 minutes.
  • Choose beverages wisely; try to drink water or sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice. Coffee or unsweetened tea may also be wise choices.
  • Try to socialize away from the food to avoid absent-minded eating.
  • When you are full, chew a piece of gum or eat a mint to cleanse your palate and prevent further eating.
  • Don’t accept offers to take leftovers, unless they are fruit, vegetables or other light foods.


Shrimp and sauce

Some Smart Party Food Choices

  • Roasted or smoked turkey
  • Boiled shrimp cocktail
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables or seasonal roasted vegetables
  • Salsa or bean-based dips in place of cheesy dips or creamy dips, like spinach dip
  • Mixed nuts, in place of other snack type mixes

After the Party

Slow Lane - Fast Lane

What to do if you overindulge:

  • Don’t be discouraged. Do not use your previous choices as an excuse to continue to overeat or eat heavy foods.
  • Don’t starve yourself, which can increase the likelihood of overeating later in the day.
  • Follow MyPlate guidelines to help you plan meals and snacks to provide adequate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Continue your regular exercise regimen, or simply make an effort to be more active throughout the day. Walk when travelling or park farther away from your destinations if you must drive.
  • Spend time with your family or friends throughout the holiday season being active. Speed walk while shopping or just walk and talk to socialize with each other.