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3 Unique Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  December 3, 2013 04:16 PM

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Source:  CDC
The festive news about holiday weight gain is darn right jolly.  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, research suggests that Americans, on average, gain only about one pound during the holiday season yet those who are overweight are more likely to gain a tad more.  Unfortunately, if you don’t lose that weight but rather carry it over year after year, it can snowball into a hefty mound after a decade of holidays.

To help you avoid ringing in the New Year with even a mere pound more of you, I have uncovered 3 simple, science-based strategies that could help you avoid weight gain during the holidays.  Who knows?  These may be so effective for you that you may even lose some weight.  

Strategy No. 1:  Eat off Red Plates

When you are driving and see a red stop sign, you stop (hopefully).  Eating foods on a red plate may have the same motivating effect on your consumption, according to a study published in the journal, Appetite.    In this study, researchers allowed 109 individuals to freely snack on pretzels served on either a white, blue, or red plate while completing a questionnaire.  Those who were given pretzels on a red plate ate significantly less than the individuals who were given pretzels on a white or blue plate.  (The difference in hunger among the individuals in the three groups was ruled out.)   The authors hypothesized that the color red may elicit an avoidance reaction through socially and culturally learned habits, such as a red traffic light or flashing red alert. 

Using red plates may help you and your guests eat less at your next cocktail party.  If there was ever a time of the year where you easily find small, red cocktail plates, it’s this season.  Try this simple strategy and see if you end up with more leftovers than usual at your party.

Strategy No. 2:  Use Tall, Narrow Wine Glasses

The shape of your glass, if you hold the glass when you pour yourself the wine, and the color of the wine may all affect the amount you drink.  Researchers wanted to investigate the effect of environmental cues on individuals’ wine pouring behavior.  To do this, they allowed 73 adults to pour themselves wine at various wine pouring stations that were strategically design to measure the amount of wine poured in the glass.  This is what they uncovered:

Source:  Cornell University

This holiday season, use tall rather than wide wine glasses, don’t hold the glass when you pour the wine, and be aware that contrast, that is pouring red wine rather than white wine, into a clear glass, may make it easier for you to keep your wine portion, and associated calories, in check. 

Strategy No. 3:  Begin at the Healthier End of the Buffet Table

Depending upon how the food is displayed on the buffet table may impact what you put on your plate.  In a recent study, researchers randomly assigned 124 adults to freely choose food items from one of two breakfast buffets.   The first buffet started with healthy foods such as fruit and low fat yogurt and ended with more fatty foods such as cheesy eggs, bacon, and cinnamon rolls.  The other buffet table had the same foods but in reverse order.

Researchers uncovered that 86 percent of individuals took fruit when it was the first item on the buffet table but only 54 percent took fruit when it was at the end of the buffet table.  “Each food taken may partly determine what other foods a person selects. In this way, the first food a person selects triggers what they take next,” claims behavioral economists Professor Brian Wansink and Andrew Hanks, postdoctoral researcher, and authors of the study.  “The first three food items a person encountered in the buffet comprised 66 percent of their total plate, regardless of whether the items were high or low-calorie foods,” said Wansink.

If you are a guest at a holiday buffet, head first to whichever end of the buffet table that has the healthier foods and begin filling up your plate.  If you are hosting the holiday event, put the healthier items at the beginning of the buffet table.  Your guests will be happier with you in the morning.

Be well, Joan

If you have topic you would like me to cover on my blog, please email me at:

                                        Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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