Holiday dinner // Holiday dinner - Andersson, Staffan | Johner Images Royalty-Free | Getty Images (Andersson, Staffan | Johner Images Royalty-Free | Getty Images)

The average person gains seven to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, chef Dawn Hall recently informed me.

Seven to 10 pounds.

Putting on that kind of girth due to holiday over-indulgence is easy, Hall assured me. Taking it off come January is not a simple task, involving either routine workouts and/or a disciplined reduction in daily caloric intake.

"A lot of people do that cycle," said Hall, author of Busy People's Cookbooks (Cookbook Resources). "Then at some point along the line they have a hard time getting back on the bandwagon. It's very dangerous. You're playing with your health."

And for no good reason. The holidays are not a license to throw your healthy lifestyle habits out the door, said registered dietician Sylvia Klinger, who teaches community cooking classes in Chicago every Thanksgiving. They're a time to remain aware of how you treat your body. The following ideas can help guide you through the holiday season.


Mark all your holiday parties and get-togethers on a calendar and develop personal eating guidelines for each event, suggested Hall. "We handle situations better when we have a plan A and B," she said.


Cured meats laden with salt and desserts containing large quantities of white flour and sugar are just the type of holiday favorites no one needs. They're the foods that give us a sense of heaviness and drowsiness after we've consumed them. "If you feel like falling asleep after you've eaten, that's a very good barometer, for sure!" said healthy cooking chef and television host Marvin Woods, who owns a restaurant in Florida.


As usual, moderation is the key. Go for more fresh foods, such as vegetables, and less highly processed foods, such as a supermarket pie. Which is not to say you can't eat a piece of pie. "If you have good veggies and protein on the table and there's not a lot of cream and butter on them then yes, have a dessert, it's not going to tip you over the edge," said Woods. "If you have three desserts in one day, that's going to tip you over the edge."


It's not unusual for people to eat a whopping 2,000 calories in one sitting over the holidays, especially when it comes to Thanksgiving meals. Klinger said there's just no excuse for consuming that much food. Take the skin off your turkey, skip the gravy and stuffing, forget the butter on your mashed potatoes, and show a little respect for yourself! Especially when it comes to that other holiday indulgence—alcohol.


If you're the cook this holiday season, get creative. "One of the biggest challenges with cooking is people get caught up in routines," said Wood, who went on to describe butternut squash mixed with carrot and stock instead of butter, root vegetables mashed with parsnip, and fish grilled, poached, or sautéed to perfection. "It's just laziness and a lack of knowledge. Be adventuresome with how you cook!" There are plenty of healthy-eating cookbooks on the market to help.

Stand your ground

Don't be intimidated, persuaded or cajoled into over-indulging at a holiday gathering. Misery loves company and all that. Smile and stick with what you know is right for you.


Granted, the holidays are a busy time of year, but finding time to exercise is crucial to avoiding weight gain. Exercise now or you'll be doing double time after New Year's, said Klinger.

Nurse your hangover

Food hangover, that is. You'll know if you have one, said Hall, because eating an excessive amount of sugars and fat can lead to headaches and even flu-like symptoms. Her antidote is to go "super lean" the next day. And vow to do better when you sit down to your next holiday meal.