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Avoiding Holiday Weight Creep: Ways to be Healthy but Still Enjoy Yourself

Nov. 30, 2012
Nutritionist Dr. Keith Kantor offers tips and advice about eating happy and healthy during the holidays and all year round.

Dr. Keith Kantor has been an advocate of natural food and healthy living for 27 years. In 1994, he was appointed CEO of Service Foods, Inc., the largest all natural food company of its kind in the United States. The average American gains between 5 and 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and the end of year, Kantor says, and most of us don’t lose it. While 5 pounds doesn’t sound like much, adding 25 to 50 additional pounds in a 5-year period seriously impacts our health.

“You have to have a plan before you go someplace for the holidays, because we tend to overeat,” Kantor suggests. “You have to think about it and make a concrete effort to eat healthy.”

When we walk into a party or attend a dinner party, we go into sensory overload. Lots of rich food, alcoholic beverages and desserts become the sugarplums dancing in the heads of adults. Kantor doesn’t think we should refrain from enjoying these wonderful treats, but he does think we should do so in – you guessed it – moderation.

“Don’t go hungry to a dinner party or a party,” he suggests. “Eat a late lunch, because what you prepare for yourself for lunch at home will almost always be more healthy than the food at a party.”

Drink lots of water before and during a meal and especially between alcoholic beverages. “Alcohol is dehydrating and high in calories,” Kantor says. The less you drink, the less holiday weight you probably will gain.

Many holiday parties and dinners are set up like buffets. This means trouble if you just dive in and start choosing foods. “Survey what they’re serving,” Kantor suggests. “There usually are two or three casseroles, two or three salad dressings and many, many desserts. Think about your choices. If you have to try all three casseroles, remember portion sizes. The servings of those three dishes should add up to one regular serving size, not three regular serving sizes.”

And Kantor stresses that we should remember to exercise, even when schedules book up with holiday parties. If you usually exercise on your way home from work or after work, but you know you have a series of after work events coming up, change your exercise routine and work out in the morning. You might hate it while you're doing it, Kantor says, but you'll be happy when you don't gain those five holiday pounds.

Tips for Healthy Workers

Kantor offers 15 tips employers can use to promote healthier eating and better health in the workplace both at the holidays and year-round. He said his company has employed all of them with great success.

  • Promote parties or catering around healthy foods. Pass on the doughnuts and bagels and keep fresh fruit in a basket and filtered water available for employees instead.
  • Create lunch hour walking groups or small group personal training by fitness level. This creates a social outlet for employees while making dramatic improvements on overall health through physical activity.
  • Provide weekly yoga or Pilates classes during lunch times. These mind/body practices will reduce stress and ultimately, will help in reducing stress-related health concerns like high blood pressure, cardiac issues, obesity, etc.
  • Develop a corporate gym membership for employees (discounted or free) to help increase their activity and improve overall health and energy levels.
  • Offer a smoking cessation program. It's one of the best ways to reduce health risk is to cut out smoking.
  • Create a “biggest loser” program that includes educational seminars from health professionals and accountability weigh in with winner incentives upon program completion.
  • Provide appliances in the kitchen/break room that promote health (tea pot, blender, refrigerator, filtered water, microwave, toaster oven, etc.) and allow employees to heat up or store food brought from home.
  • Clean out your vending machines. Strip out the cookies and candy bars, and replace with healthier snacks such as trail mix and protein bars, etc. “We did it overnight,” said Kantor of his company. “A few people wondered where the pretzels went, but if they’re given healthy choices, they’ll take them.”
  • Invest in pedometers. For just a few dollars each, you can buy pedometers for your employees. Pass them out and encourage staffers to keep track of the number of daily steps and encourage them to walk a few extra each day. You even can start a walking competition at work. Some insurance providers offer pedometers free.
  • Encourage employees to take health risk assessments, which are offered by many insurance companies and consultants that promote healthy lifestyles. Be sure to make assessments voluntary and confidential, and assure employees that the results won’t be shared with anyone. This will give the employees insight to health concerns and may motivate them to make healthy lifestyle changes. Offer incentives such as two free movie tickets or a drawing to win a iPad to entice employees to complete the assessment
  • Review claims data. By reviewing claims data at the end of the year, you can see if there are common health issues or concerns. If several employees have high blood pressure, bring in health professionals to education about low-sodium cooking and/or stress management.
  • Encourage employees to stock their desks with healthy snacks to avoid temptation. Healthy snacks include trail mix, protein shake/bars, chopped fruits, vegetables, herbal teas, etc. “We offer a lot of these to employees to encourage them to eat healthy,” Kantor says.
  • Hydration is important, so provide employees with large tumbler cups for drinking water. Most employees become dehydrated throughout the work day. Adequate hydration will decrease cravings and increase mental alertness.
  • Start a contest that rewards employees for bringing healthy lunches. Post photos of employees’ healthy packed lunch on social media sites and those employees who bring the most healthy and creative lunches win prizes. Kantor says that Service Foods offers a quarterly Healthy Lunch contest.
  • Provide employees with desk stretches to relieve stress especially in neck and shoulders. “You walk past people doing their stretches at their desks and it looks kind of funny at first,” Kantor admits. “But it really helps relax muscles and relieve tension and stress.”

For more guidance on healthy choices and wellness, visit

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