Navigating the Holiday Buffet

Last updated: Dec 03, 2012


Choosing healthy foods and staying within calorie limits to lose weight or maintain your weight can be especially difficult over the holidays when you're presented with bountiful holiday buffets! 

Is it possible to enjoy yourself during the holidays
and stick to your weight management goals?

Yes! Just Look AHEAD!

Action for Health in Diabetes (Look AHEAD), a National Institutes of Health study, was designed to encourage people with type 2 diabetes to lose weight and maintain a healthier weight, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure long term with lifestyle changes involving diet strategies, exercise strategies, optional weight loss medications, education, and social / behavioral support. Data from the trial show that intensive intervention resulted in weight loss of up to 10 percent the first year, 6.5 percent over the following 3 years, and 5 percent after 11 years — results that support the value of dietary, exercise, and social strategies for long-term weight loss.

Among other helpful recommendations, Look AHEAD offers 10 effective ways to prepare for the holidays and manage your diet plan, including:

  • Plan ahead
    Think about potential obstacles to your diet plan in advance and think of possible solutions for them. For example, if it's usually difficult for you to avoid high-calorie foods at a party, decide before going to the party how much you will eat and drink, and then remind yourself about your plan while you are there
  • Eat something before you go to a party
    Eating a small meal or healthy, low-calorie snack before you leave for a party can help keep you from being overly hungry and making poor choices at the buffet
  • Be assertive with hosts about your plan
    Politely but firmly let your host know that you are watching your weight and will be avoiding foods that are not on your diet plan. Graciously comment on the host's presentation without feeling pressure to indulge
  • Focus on quality, not quantity
    If you decide to indulge in a high-calorie food, make sure it's something you really want rather than something you're eating mindlessly. Keep the portion small and offset the extra calories by eating less at a meal, skipping a snack, or foregoing alcohol
  • Plan nonfood-related pleasure and activities
    Include friends and family in a walk or hike, museum visit, holiday concert, or gym membership to focus on activities instead of eating during the holidays 
  • Ask your family to support your holiday plan
    Ask your family members to support you with positive changes to holiday menus and keeping fewer tempting, high-fat, high-calorie foods in the house
  • Limit your alcohol
    Remember that alcohol increases appetite and decreases self-control. Having no or minimal alcohol can help you stick with your diet plan
  • Beware of stress and fatigue
    Feeling tired and stressed can soften your resolve to manage what you eat over the holidays. Take time to rest and relax with healthy coping strategies such as getting plenty of sleep and exercising each day
  • Plan activities after the holidays
    Having activities after the holidays can help motivate you to stick with your plan. Plan a winter or spring trip, visit friends, and schedule physical activities that you will feel good doing if you've lost excess weight or maintained a healthy weight 
  • Make reasonable New Year's resolutions
    Establish realistic goals that you can begin working toward once the holiday rush calms down. If losing a large amount of weight is among your New Year's goals, start with a 10-lb goal. Once you have lost that amount, focus on the next 10 lbs

"It's unrealistic to think you won't try a holiday cookie or that you will refuse invitations to all holiday gatherings," says Summit Medical Group registered dietitian Susan Canonico. "But you can protect your weight management goals over the holidays by choosing small dessert servings, filling your plate with vegetables before eating other, higher-calorie foods at the buffet, and using other Look AHEAD tips!"

For more weight management strategies
or to schedule an appointment,
call Summit Medical Group Nutrition Services today
at 908-277-8731.