Educate. Empower. Prevent.

Division of the J. Moss Foundation

Portion Control Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

By Rennie Aranda, Skinny Gene Dietitian

Winter holidays is a fun time of year to spend time with your loved ones and reflect on all the hard work you have put into attaining your health goals over the year. However, with holiday cheer comes endless temptations of the season’s high calorie favorites lurking around every corner — goodies appearing in homes and offices at Thanksgiving and continuing on until the next year. With nearly two months of celebrating, most Americans gain about a pound or two by New Year’s Day from the holidays. Even though it’s just a pound or two, most Americans don’t lose the weight they gain during the winter holidays and add up year after year. Don’t fall into this trap! Keep focused on your health goals you’ve set while still enjoying the winter holiday season. It is still possible to enjoy holiday goodies without the dreaded weight gain. You can still indulge in the foods you like, but be aware of the amount out eat. Portion Control is KEY.

Portion Control Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Photo by Abernethy Laurels

Photo by Abernethy Laurels

Follow these tips to help you avoid overindulging and holiday weight gain:

–        Never Arrive Hungry. Plan ahead to help you maintain discipline in the face of temptation. Try to have a nutritious snack such as raw veggies or fruit before attending holiday parties. If you do arrive hungry, drink some water to fill up before filling up your plate.

–        Divert Your Attention. Holiday parties are not all about the food. Make socializing and enjoying the company of your friends and family, rather than food, the focus of the event.

–        Pace Yourself. No need to eat until you’re stuffed. Chew slowly and munch at a leisurely pace to fill you up with less food. Try putting your fork down after each bite to keep yourself in control.

–        Keep Track. It is easy to lose count of the small bite-size appetizers. Keep track by stashing a toothpick in your pocket for each one. Set a limit beforehand and stick to it.

–        Outsmart the Buffet. When dinner is served buffet style, use the smallest plate available and don’t stack your food. Aim for the simplest foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables or shrimp cocktail. Watch out for sauces and dips. Don’t stand near the buffet table. Keep your back to it so you won’t even see it.

–        Be Choosy About Sweets. Spend your calories on the special treats you really want. Be selective and limit your indulgences to small portions or only what is very sensual to you.

–        Bring Your Own Treats. Consider bringing a low-calorie treat that you know you’ll enjoy, which will make the more fattening alternatives less tempting.

–        Limit Alcohol. Plan how much alcohol you’ll drink and stick to it. It’s about control, not calories. More alcoholic beverages loosens inhibitions, resulting in less control over what you eat and contributing to higher calorie consumption. If you feel out of place without a drink, sip water or club soda so you have something to carry like everyone else.

–        Keep Portions In Mind. Downsize to healthy portions when filling up your plate by learning to “eyeball” your food to gauge what’s too much and what’s just right. The following chart shows how to use our hands as guidelines to control our portions:


Serving Size Food Example(s)
One fist / 1 cup Dry cereal, milk, yogurt, vegetables, fruit
Palm of your hand / 3 ounces Chicken, beef, fish, pork
Handful / ½ cup Noodles, Rice, Oatmeal
Two fists / 2 cups Salad
Thumb / 1 tablespoon Peanut Butter
Pointer Finger / 1½ ounces Cheese
Flat hand / 1 slice Slice of whole-wheat bread
Thumb tip / 1 teaspoon Cooking oil, mayonnaise, butter, sugar


With these tips in mind, sticking to your goals may feel a little bit more achievable. Remember to stay focused, disciplined, and have fun in the process! Happy holidays and cheers to a happy and healthy New Year!

Leave a Reply