Do Holidays Cause Weight Gain?

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Do Holidays Cause Weight Gain?

The holidays are upon us once again, meaning that sweets, treats, and high-calorie dishes often tag along to all our jolly gatherings—and pave the way for inevitable holiday weight gain. However, it is possible to enjoy this season without seeing the scale move in the wrong direction. With just a few adjustments (and without sacrificing flavor!), you can welcome the New Year without widening your waistline and avoid any holiday weight gain.

Holiday weight gain typically starts—perhaps rather innocently—in mid-November. Between the taste-testing and the parties, a nibble here and a bite there, we may not even notice a major difference in our weight. The real culprit may be the first major meal of the season: Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, it’s estimated that the average person consumes as many as 4,500 calories (or more!) during this meal.

Thanksgiving dinner alone can have the scale heading on up, but many of us also indulge in the leftovers during the days after—and this can really force you to loosen your belt. Often, this eating pattern continues into the New Year. If you wish to enjoy the holidays, but make it through at the same weight you started, some adjustments need to be made.

Of course portion control is helpful, but the easiest way to maintain your weight throughout the holidays, while still enjoying your celebrations, is with some easy recipe adjustments. By tweaking your favorite recipe to reduce the calories and fat it contains, or swapping it out for a healthy yet tasty alternative, you can reduce the calorie content of the holiday meal as well as the leftovers, resulting in limited holiday weight gain.

One of the biggest sources of excess calories at holiday meals is from added fats in recipes. Ingredients such as butter, cream, and oil can substantially add to the holiday weight gain risk. For instance, stuffing—a holiday favorite—can be packed with butter, sausage, and even drippings from meat, making just one cup contain as many as 400 calories!

For an easy swap that not only tastes great, but is also easy and pleasing to guests, try Matlaw’s Stuffed Clams. Along with the clam meat, each contains breadcrumbs, veggies (such as peppers and celery), and herbs. Simply heat and serve! These unexpected crowd pleasers boast just 100 calories per serving, are a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and are more waistline-friendly than traditional stuffing. You can even scoop the stuffing out of the shells and create clam cakes for a delicious holiday appetizer.

Ingredients in popular holiday desserts can also contribute to weight gain, and many of those ingredients are unnecessary or have healthier substitutes.

Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, LDN, is a nutrition and fitness expert who operates a private practice in New Jersey. She frequently serves as a media spokesperson, nutrition consultant, and speaker and is the author of multiple publications. Learn more at


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