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Blocking Holiday Weight Gain

Is there anything you can do to avoid extra pounds during this time of the year?

Nashville, Ark. – Let’s face it, the holidays are a time to eat and be merry! There are numerous parties to attend and all of them have one thing in common - holiday food. Most Americans put on a few extra pounds over the holiday season. Unfortunately, studies show that many of them never get rid of those extra pounds. Is there anything you can do to avoid extra pounds during this time of the year? Yes, you can. Obstacles to living healthy during the holidays can be overcome.

            One problem is the busy schedules we tend to keep. During the holidays, that schedule gets even busier. Many people feel they have little time for cooking or shopping for groceries, so they rely more than ever on fast food restaurants, eating out or frozen meals. Unfortunately, these meals tend to be high in fat and consist mainly of two food groups: meats and starchy foods like bread and potatoes. Studies show that people who eat more fruits and vegetables satisfy their hunger and eat far fewer calories.

            While this does take time, take a couple of hours and sit down to plan out your meals for the next few weeks. You will actually save time in the long run, by knowing what you will be eating and having those items on hand instead of having to make daily trips to the grocery store. By planning ahead and making meals at home, you can save money and include fruits and vegetables which are the main stay of the MyPlate method of eating healthy.

            On those nights you know you will be short on time, plan to fix quick meals such as stir fry or make your own sub sandwiches. Vegetable soup prepared with frozen vegetables is another healthy option.

            Another obstacle in weight control during the holidays occurs when we use food as a way to cope with the season’s stress and emotions. Become aware of urges to eat that are unrelated to hunger. When tense and anxious, soothe yourself with music, a hot shower or a read a good book. If you’re tired, take a 10-minute power nap or take a walk around the neighborhood to rejuvenate yourself.

            Don’t forget your regular exercise routines during the holidays. Don’t let other priorities crowd out this important part of your schedule. Even if you have to cut down on exercise because of time constraints, don’t lose the habit completely or it will be hard to get back in the routine later. Look for opportunities for short bouts of walking. For example, park your car away from the store and take the stairs instead of the elevator when shopping.

            What about special once-a-year holiday foods? Realistically, the odds of maintaining your weight are small if you have a serving of everything that is offered. Therefore; be discriminating, choose two or three items to enjoy rather than sampling everything on the buffet.

            When you do indulge, don’t fall into the pattern of deciding that, now that you’ve “blown it,” you may as well eat a lot more. Begin damage control immediately! Stop after one treat and things won’t get out of hand. If you know you’ll have a few extra holiday sweets, cut back on other sugar-laden items like soft drinks, specialty coffee drinks, doughnuts and pastries.

            When you are at a party, first look at all the choices and then decide what you really want before filling your plate. Stay as far away as possible from buffet tables to avoid absent-minded nibbling. Those mindless calories can add up fast!

            Choose low calorie or no calorie drinks whenever possible. Increase your intake of water to help you feel full without adding calories. Drink calories add up quickly, so be aware of what you are drinking.

            Instead of food, focus on the joy of sharing the holiday season with family and friends rather than allowing food and stressful “to do” lists to dominate the season. Extra weight gain does not have to be one of the gifts of the holiday season.

            For more information on healthy holiday foods or eating closer to the dietary guidelines check out the website or contact the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

            Howard County Cooperative Extension Service will be offering a Tai Chi for Arthritis program beginning Monday, January 22 at 10:00 a.m. at the EHC Educational Center in Nashville. The program is designed for anyone wanting to improve balance and flexibility. All ages can participate in the program. A one-time registration fee of $20 will be charged to cover program costs. If you are interested in participating in this 12 week program, contact the Extension Office at 870-845-7517. The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

Recipe of the Week

            This recipe is great for all holiday parties. It makes a lot; therefore it is perfect for large crowds. Not only is this recipe good for you, it tastes great! Super quick-to-prepare too!

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1 (16 oz.) jar salsa

1 (15.5 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15.5 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained or 1 ½ cups frozen corn

1 (14.4 oz.) can petite chopped tomatoes, drained

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

½ teaspoon ground cumin

            Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving. Serve with chips or use as a side dish. Yield: 24 servings (1/4 cup each)

Nutrition Information per serving: 30 calories, 0 fat, 1 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber 240 mg sodium.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.