Q and A: Holiday weight gain

Posted by Allie Wergin, R.D.N.
December 04, 2015


Is holiday weight gain real, or is it just something people are unnecessarily concerned about?

The weight gain of five to seven pounds over the holiday season is considered a myth. On average, most Americans gain only one pound of body weight over the holidays. However, the potential to be unhealthy or gain weight over the holidays is real.

Why does holiday weight gain happen? Stress, desserts, large portions?

It happens for many reasons. During the busy holiday season, preparing healthy meals and keeping exercise a priority can be challenging. We have multiple gatherings and parties filled with tempting desserts and other rich foods we might not normally consume. Not to mention, the cold winter months are upon us — when we typically crave calorie-rich comfort foods.

What are some methods people can employ to prevent holiday weight gain?

Stay active throughout the season. At parties and gatherings, fill your plate with low-calorie, nutrient-dense options, such as fruits and vegetables. Watch portion sizes of calorie- rich items, such as desserts, creamy dips with chips and gravy.  When choosing to indulge, pick a couple of holiday favorites to splurge on instead of foods you can have any time of the year. Stick to typical healthy eating routine on non-holiday days.

If I’ve overindulged already, how can I best get back into shape?

First off, don’t feel guilty. Accept you overate and move on. One meal is not going to make or break a diet. Make sure that your next meal and snacks are healthy. Additionally, incorporate physical activity into your routine.

How can I eat healthier during the holidays?

Be sure to include fruits and vegetables in your meals. The pear and pomegranate spinach salad recipe below will help add festive color and a healthy option to any table.

Pear and pomegranate spinach salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Yield: About six 1-1/2 cup servings

Dressing ingredients:

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1.5 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad ingredients:

2/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

¾ cup pomegranate arils (seeds)

3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup dried cranberries

2 pears, cored and sliced

8 cups spinach or mixed greens


  1. Whisk dressing ingredients in a bowl to blend well.
  2. Place all salad ingredients in a large salad bowl; drizzle with desired amount of dressing; toss to coat.
  3. Serve immediately.

Allie Wergin is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Mayo Clinic Health System in New Prague.

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