The leaves have changed, the breeze has a crisp bite and the days are shorter; the first day of winter is less than a month away! Did you know that the average weight gain is 5 to 10 pounds through the cold winter months? This statistic is not hard to believe; it’s dark when we leave work, we stay in to avoid the weather, and the holidays are full of tasty treats. You can avoid the winter weight gain by following these three easy steps:

1. Move

It’s easy to want to hide under a cozy blank when the snow is blowing outside but it is recommended that we move 150 minutes a week. Break it up according to your schedule: thirty minutes five times a week or fifty minutes three times a week. Go above and beyond your daily routine for the 150 minutes — carrying your laundry upstairs doesn’t count! It’s recommended that adults should do strength-building activities like body-weight movements and weight lifting twice a week. In addition, it is important to avoid sedentary time and just move more throughout your day; the American Diabetes Association updated their guidelines to suggest short periods of movement every 30 minutes.

Not sure where to begin? Start a new winter hobby like cross country skiing, ice skating or even curling! If an arctic adventure isn’t up your alley, try joining a gym or ask about a workplace fitness program. You can even get creative in the workplace and home; for instance, try a standing desk, fitness video games or shoveling for your neighbors. The options to get moving are endless, so ditch the excuses, grab a friend and enjoy the winter!

2. Rethink your drinks

The holiday season of eggnog, peppermint lattes and hot cocoa is approaching fast, but don’t let the festive mood fool you — many of these beverages can contain upwards of 400 calories! If you’re staying warm through the winter with one of these delicious drinks a day you could find yourself 10 pounds heavier come spring. 10 pounds is the weight of the average house cat, so picture yourself lugging your cat with you everywhere this spring. No thanks!

Avoid drinking your calories by choosing sparkling water, hot tea or coffee; just make sure you’re not adding a bunch of sugar and syrup, as that defeats the purpose. If a hot toddy is your thing, it is recommended that women consume one or fewer alcoholic beverages a day and two or fewer for men.

3. Food

Let’s be real. It’s party season. Bring on the dessert trays, creamy chip dips and cheese platters. These can be hard to resist, but try this: Don’t go to a party hungry or you might find yourself hovering over the bugle dip. Better yet, limit yourself to fruit and vegetable trays for the first hour or so of a party. If you need to bring a dish, bring one that you know is a healthier, low calorie option such as veggies and hummus.

Use this guide for an ideal meal. Split your plate into these 4 equal parts:

1. Meat/protein.

2. Starchy foods such as rice, pasta or potato.

3 and 4. Fruits and vegetables.

This is a simple way to understand a healthy meal that can be applied everyday but can be even more valuable at the office holiday party.

Finally, set realistic expectations. Remember, no one is perfect and it is okay to indulge occasionally; if you lose to the bugle dip, go home, brush it off and start fresh the next day. Now is the time to make new healthy habits to take with you into the new year. Try out the recipes below for some lighter options at your holiday gatherings this year. Happy holidays!

Cranberry spritzer

Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 1 quart reduced-calorie cranberry juice
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 quart carbonated water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup raspberry sherbet
  • 10 lemon or lime wedges

Directions

Refrigerate the cranberry juice, lemon juice and carbonated water until cold.

In a large pitcher, mix together the cranberry juice, lemon juice, carbonated water, sugar and sherbet. Pour into tall chilled glasses and garnish with a lemon or lime wedge. Serve immediately.

Nutritional information: Per 1 cup serving: Calories 60, fat 0 g, sodium 20 mg, carbohydrate 15 g

Dietitian’s tip: Cranberry juice may help fight urinary tract infections because it contains compounds that help stop certain bacteria from attaching to the walls of the bladder and urinary tract.

Recipe by: Mayo Clinic Staff

Hummus

Serves: 14

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) reduced-sodium garbanzos, rinsed and drained except for ¼ cup liquid
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)*
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Directions

In a blender or food processor, add the garbanzos. Process to puree. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, pepper, paprika, tahini and parsley. Blend well. Add the reserved liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture has the consistency of a thick spread. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Recipe note: If you need to follow a gluten-free diet, check the label to make sure the brand of tahini is gluten-free.

Nutritional information: Per ¼ cup serving: Calories 80, fat 3 g, saturated fat <1 g, sodium 182 mg, carbohydrate 10 g, fiber 2.5 g, protein 3 g

Dietitian’s tip: Serve this easy Mediterranean spread with a variety of raw veggies or as a sandwich spread. For a different taste you can substitute white, butter or lima beans for garbanzos and 1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin seeds for the paprika.

Recipe by: Mayo Clinic Staff

Resources: World Health Organization, American Diabetes Association, Mayoclinic.org

Meghan Teska is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System.

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