At this time of year, the average New England black bear puts on about 30 extra pounds of body fat before entering its den for the winter. But so do many human beings. Holiday parties, feasts, special treats… for two months of the year, we act like we’re preparing for hibernation. That’s fine if you’re going to sleep until spring, which is what the bear does. But it’s kind of deadly if you’re not. That’s why I want to devote this post to nutrition for the holidays.
Holiday Weight Gain
I’m exaggerating when I suggest you might gain 30 pounds during the holidays. A fascinating report (registration required) in New England Journal of Medicine from 2016 looked at seasonal weight gain among 2,924 people from the data uploaded by their web-enabled scales. They took a person’s average weight in the 10 days before Christmas and compared to the average weight in the 10 days after Christmas. The weight of people in the United States increased by 0.4% between the two periods. That might not sound like much, but they also found that some of the extra weight is very difficult to lose.
The study’s authors noted “although up to half of holiday weight gain is lost shortly after the holidays, half the weight gain appears to remain until the summer months or beyond.” That means most people start swimsuit season sporting half of their holiday weight gain.
A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet during the holidays is the same as it is the rest of the year. The World Health Organization says it should include:
- Fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
- At least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day (not including potatoes!).
- Fewer than a tenth of your daily calories from free sugars, which include sugars added to foods or drinks (whether by the food’s manufacturer or by you). It also includes the naturally occurring sugars in honey, syrups, fruit juices, and fruit juice concentrates.
- Less than a third of your calories from fats. Unsaturated fats are preferred to saturated fats. Trans fats are to be avoided altogether.
- Under five grams of salt per day, which amounts to about a teaspoon.
Nutrition for the Holidays
You can work out the specifics for yourself. But if you don’t know where to start, consider Peak’s nutrition planning service. We can scan your body to determine its composition and test your resting metabolic rate. Then we plan your calorie intake by carbohydrates, protein, and fat. We will help you come up with an ideal diet, uniquely tailored to you, your preferences, and your nutritional needs. We will provide personalized daily meal plans. You’ll have a custom app to view and log your meals with, as well as easy links to purchase recommended foods and ingredients. You can even adjust meals on the fly, and we will take your travel schedule and your favorite local restaurants into account.
In addition, the plan can help with nutrition for the holidays. It provides you with smart alternatives and offers realistic options. These include the ability to easily incorporate cheat meals, change the contents of a meal with the click of a button, and track your results. You can automatically merge data from all food tracking apps and activity trackers to adjust the macros and calories of your plan.
You don’t have to be a model of self-denial. The holidays are a time to be festive and enjoy your friends and family. Just don’t let the season turn into an endless round of holiday treats, rich desserts, generous servings of alcohol, and overlarge meals. Eat and drink mindfully. Savoring your food thoughtfully will likely make it even more enjoyable.