Don’t be caught with your hand in the cookie jar this holiday season. It’s easy to be tempted to overeat because your favorite foods come around once a year. But by making wise food choices, you can avoid overloading on calories.

Indulging during the holidays leaves a lasting impression on more than just your taste buds. A study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development showed that 75% of weight gain throughout the year occurred during the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. And that’s weight that tends to stick around. A 2000 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that Americans tend to gain around 1 lb during the holidays each year – and not lose it in the following year1.

So before you settle in for a little too much holiday cheer, check out these healthy alternatives:

  • Instead of baked brie (250 calories per serving), choose toasted pumpkin seeds (16 calories per serving). You save more than 230 calories per serving while getting a healthy dose of bone-building magnesium.
  • Ditch the beef barley soup (400 calories per serving) in favor of Italian minestrone soup (200 calories per serving). This slashes 200 calories per serving while delivering lean protein and veggies.

Other options:

Dish Calories Healthier Option Calories Calories Saved
Caesar salad without chicken 840 Spinach salad with apples, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette 210 630
Honey-glazed ham 520 Baked rosemary chicken 200 320
Mashed potatoes and gravy 450 Baked sweet potatoes 130 320
Green bean casserole 400 Sauteed green beans 55 345
Traditional stuffing 220 Grilled winter vegetables 135 85
Candied yams 380 Winter fruit salad 90 290
Cheesecake 280 Angel food cake 130 150

Eating goes hand-in-hand with holiday celebrations. With some pre-planning, you can keep your weight-loss goals on-track while enjoying some of your favorite tastes of the holiday season.

Contributor to GuideStone Financial Resources

“A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain.” Jack A. Yanovski, M.D., Ph.D., et al. New England Journal of Medicine 2000; 342:861-867. March 23, 2000.