Memorial Day weekend has arrived, which means tons of food, drinks and desserts to help celebrate. Often, folks who are trying to lose weight feel holidays are “cheat days,” or days when they don’t have to watch what they’re eating. However, that mentality couldn’t be further from the truth. While you should build small splurges into any healthy eating plan, you shouldn’t overeat to the point where you can’t zip your pants.
Here are six steps you can take this (and any) holiday weekend to prevent weight gain:
1. Stay hydrated.
How can keeping hydrated help prevent weight gain? When you skimp on fluids, you actually may feel hungry and eat. That’s why it’s important to keep hydrated throughout the day with drinks that have few or no calories. According to the latest version of the dietary guidelines, sugary drinks are one of the top sources of added sugar in Americans’ diets. Instead of sodas and juice drinks, choose water, seltzer or unsweetened iced tea. If you want to jazz things up, muddle berries in your seltzer or add slices of cucumber or fresh mint to your water. If lemonade or sweetened ice tea is your thing, make your own while controlling the added sugar. Stick to about one teaspoon of added sugar per serving.
2. Get moving.
Get your mind off of food and plan several outdoor activities throughout the holiday weekend. This is a great way to spend time and catch up with family and friends, plus it’s a fabulous way to get out of the kitchen where you may be tempted by goodies laying around. Fun activities include:
- Taking a hike, bike ride or leisurely walk
- Enjoying a day at the local pool or beach
- Playing a friendly game of tennis, basketball, volleyball or football
- Planting or tending to a small garden
3. Eat mindfully.
Pay attention to what, when and how you are eating throughout the holiday weekend. If you find that you are shoveling down food, slow down. Take the time to savor every bite and all the flavors the meal has to offer. Meals should be enjoyed in a quiet environment free of electronics. In my family, every person has to put his or her cell phone in our “electronics bowl” before sitting down. You can even take the meal outdoors in order to enjoy the beautiful scenery and conversation with friends and family.
4. Just say no.
It’s OK to say no to your favorite aunt when she shovels large portions of everything onto your plate. It’s also acceptable to decline decadent desserts, fried anything or mayo-drenched salads that you just know are brimming with calories. Stick to wholesome foods like corn on the cob (sans the gobs of butter), watermelon, raw vegetables with dips like hummus and grilled chicken or fish. If you must indulge in higher-calorie offerings, use my two tablespoon rule: Take no more than two tablespoons of two to three of your favorite high-calorie dishes.
5. Think ahead.
If you know you’re taking a long car ride or will be outside for a few hours, plan to carry a few snacks. This will help prevent you from stopping at the nearest fast food joint, or becoming so hungry that you end up overeating at the next meal. Some of my favorite on-the-go snacks include:
- Cheese sticks
- Fruit and nut bars
- Pretzels and hummus
- Fresh, seasonal fruit such as strawberries and blueberries
- Banana or pear slices with peanut butter
- Baked chickpeas
6. Limit calories from alcohol.
Alcohol can be one of the biggest contributors of calories, especially over a long holiday weekend. Mixed cocktails can be the worst offenders – especially when they’re offered in large glasses with tons of alcohol. One shot (1.5 fluid ounces) of 80-proof rum or vodka contains about 100 calories. If one drink contains three shots, that’s 300 calories before adding juice, soda or sugary mixers. Plus, if you end up drinking too much alcohol, you lose your sense of control and can end up overeating. To keep calories (and bad behavior) at bay, use smaller glasses and a jigger to measure the booze.