Human Nutrition, Diet and Health > HNDH Blog > Posts > ​Holiday Calorie Count

Holidays are the time to celebrate with family and friends; however, rich, calorie laden foods are the norm at these festivities. When one holiday meal could have as many as 5,000 calories - a person can gain approximately one and a half pounds per meal. Why? One pound of weight accumulates after the addition of 3,500 calories. Celebrations at work, at church, with immediate family, with extended family and with friends can cause a person to eat five or more 5,000 calorie meals in one week.

Don’t forget the snacking that occurs between meals on leftovers. Exercise is usually held to a minimum because people are sitting in a car traveling to their destination, they are sitting during meals and conversation, and they are sitting to watch a ball game or a movie. Overeating and a lack of exercise can easily lead to a five pound weight gain in less than one week. 

Holidays also present a host of problems for gracefully declining certain foods, especially for people on restricted diets. It is important for people on specialized diets to stick to the regimen set forth by their health care provider.  How do you maintain a healthy diet without appearing to be rude to your host?  One of the best ways to maintain control in this situation is to carry a dish that you can eat and greatly restrict portion sizes of other foods.  The best way to avoid potential holiday weight gain is to develop a plan of action before the season begins.  

Your host and waistline will both thank you if while attending celebrations this season you can incorporate the following tips into your plan:

1) Remember to drink several glasses of water before a meal or party. The water will give you a sense of fullness and help you to resist the temptation to overeat.

2) Think about eating a healthy snack before the party, such as a serving of your favorite fruit, fat-free yogurt or a low-fat, whole grain granola bar. When you arrive at the party, you won’t be craving hors d’oeuvres, which are generally high in calories.

3) Limit your portion size. By eating half the serving size, you have eliminated half of the calories.

4) Allow yourself one small serving of a cookie or piece of candy each day during the holiday season. Remember that you may have to compensate for it later in the day by reducing your total caloric intake or by burning a few extra calories while exercising. 

5) After you have eaten, make a point to move away from the food table before you join any conversations.  The temptation to graze is greatly reduced if you move yourself out-of-reach and focus on your interaction with other guests.  Best of all—conversation is calorie-free and some research estimates you can burn about 50 calories during an hour-long standing chat! 

6) Try to do something physical while you have a crowd gathered. A game of tag football in the backyard before watching the game could burn off a few calories. A walk or a bicycle ride around the neighborhood could add activity to the day. Most importantly, try to do something besides just sitting and talking or watching television.  

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Donna R. Shanklin, Regional Extension Agent II, Human Nutrition, Diet and Health, Cullman County Extension Office, 402 Arnold Street NE Suite G-1,Cullman, AL 35055, Office: (256) 737-9386 Mobile: (256) 200-2997, Email:


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