THE BLOG
12/13/2013 04:04 pm ET Updated Feb 12, 2014

Navigating the Holidays Healthfully

The first holiday of the season -- Thanksgiving -- has come and gone. Gone is the tasty turkey, the bubbly cider, the piping pie. On to the next holiday now and... to dreaded weight gain. Sure, dinner and holiday parties are great; however, when they happen frequently, they can wreak havoc on your body and weight management efforts.

This holiday season, however, break the pattern of holiday weight gain once and for all. Although it is difficult to maintain good habits during this hectic time, it is definitely not impossible.

Be aware of common pitfalls

Alcohol

Many people don't realize how many calories they are drinking. One cocktail may contain up to several hundred calories. Multiple that by 2, 3, or 4 drinks in a night and... you get the picture. A glass of wine may seem harmless as well; however, those calories can add up quickly too. A five-ounce serving of red wine contains about 120 calories. Often times, the serving size is much more than five ounces.

Did you know that gram for gram, alcohol has more calories than carbs or protein?

Calories in some popular alcoholic drinks (per serving, depending on the recipe):

- Long Island Iced Tea: up to 800 calories
- Mojito: 200-250 calories
- Beer: 150-200 calories
- Eggnog: 400 calories

Plan Ahead

• Plan for events and plan for overindulgences. Have a calorie "budget" and decide how you want to spend it: food OR dessert OR alcohol.

• Consume your normal meals and snacks on the day of a party- do not save calories.

If you do overindulge

• Get right back on track the next day. Don't wait until "Monday," or "next week," or "next month" or "Jan. 1," or Jan. 2." Every day is a new opportunity for a fresh start.

• Start with a healthy, high-protein breakfast to help you get back on track and provide energy for the day ahead.

o In early morning cortisol levels normally reach their peak. This means that you are less able to effectively metabolize carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, fruit, oatmeal. This is will rev your metabolism first thing in the morning and will also satiate you and help keep you full for hours.

• Reducing calories the next day will raise HGH levels (human growth hormone) and will also optimize other hormones as well. HGH levels decrease as we age and maintaining adequate levels of this hormone is important for muscular strength and lean body composition as well as vigor. This intermittent period of fasting can boost HGH levels.

• Follow that with a healthy lunch of lean protein and veggies such as tuna with a spinach or mixed greens salad with heart-healthy olive oil and vinegar.

• Dinner should include lean protein and veggies as well such as a few pieces of sashimi and seaweed salad.

• Keep natural, fresh snacks on hand such as nuts and seeds and a piece of fruit rather than opting for processed bars or packaged foods.

• Remember to stay hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water and/or seltzer flavored with lemon or a piece of fruit.

Physical Activity

Also, during these next few weeks, compensate by making it a point to fit in physical activity and burn some extra calories.

• Don't abandon all efforts.

• Physical activity is key to maintaining weight.

• If you are trying to lose weight, recognize that it's okay to maintain your weight throughout the holidays and that it may be unrealistic to expect a significant weight loss without feeling deprived during this busy season.

• By keeping active to burn off extra calories consumed, you are keeping yourself ahead of the game when January rolls around. You can then get back on track with your weight loss program.

Adequate Nutrition

I always recommend adequate supplementation to my patients especially during the holidays which are a time of great stress and overindulgences. Again, stay on track with your habits and be consistent with taking your supplements.

• General recommendation: multivitamin, fish oil and probiotic.

• B vitamins: needed in greater amounts especially during times of stress.

• B vitamins are water-soluble and get depleted in the body very quickly, especially with increased alcohol intake.

The vitamins I use in my practice are pharmaceutical-grade, vegetarian, and free of fillers, additives and common allergens. Patients really notice the difference in the way they feel almost immediately.

The holidays don't have to be a time of dread nor a time to abandon yourself and your healthy habits. Think about how tough it usually is to lose those pesky 5 or 10 pounds. This is the average weight gain for many people between Thanksgiving and New Year's. If you are able to maintain your weight, you will be ahead of the game in January.