The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Are These Holiday Food Faux Pas Making You Fat?

Are These Holiday Food Faux Pas Making You Fat?

Dietitian Dialogues

October 29, 2013

By Registered Dietitian & Healthy Living Expert, Corinne Dobbas, MS, RD

Research shows that we make over 200 food decisions each day. When it comes to holiday time, it sure as pie feels like more! While we can’t always remove the scones, chocolates, bacon-wrapped apps, and decadent drinks, there are a few things to watch for that may be unexpectedly packing on pounds.

10 food faux pas that make us fat:

  1. Drinking out of tumblers: People pour about 32% more into short wide tumblers than into tall lean glasses. This can serve our waists wrong. For example, on average, a cup of eggnog is 344 calories, and a typical 5-ounce pour of wine is 120 calories. Thirty-two percent more of each of these servings is 454 calories and 158 calories, respectively. Have yourself a couple rounds and you’ve had the equivalent of another dinner.
  2. Loading up on apps: Unless it’s lean-protein based (think shrimp cocktail, tuna tartar, or sashimi), or veggie-based (think veggie crudités, a small salad, or a broth-based veggie soup) be careful. Appetizers are often loaded with fat.  
  3. Eating while standing up: When we’re standing and eating, we’re distracted and not focusing on our fullness factor. Plus, we eat faster. Combine this with the fact that it takes our brain 15-20 minutes to register fullness, and we’ve got an equation that equals overeating.
  4. Forgetting about drinks: Holiday time is often synonymous with drinking time. But, if you’re trying to lose weight, alcohol is not your friend here. My suggestion for women trying to stay fit is no more than two drinks a week and for men, no more than three. And stick with simple options, like 5 ounces of wine; 1.5 ounces of hard liquor with a sugar-free mixer and lime; or 12 ounces of a light beer. Each of these is about 120 calories a pop. Drinks like margaritas, eggnog, and alcohol-infused hot chocolates can easily surpass the 400-calorie mark.
  5. Eating on large plates: This is an oldie but a goodie, and one of the most effective tricks out there. When you eat on smaller plates, you’re simply satisfied with less because our brain thinks we’re getting more.
  6. Skimping on sleep: On average, we need about 7.5 hours of a sleep. During holiday time, this seems especially difficult. Like it or not, research shows that those who clock-in enough Zs, typically weigh less than those who don’t. With less sleep, we have more of the hormone that makes us hungry (ghrelin) and less of the hormone (leptin) that tells us we’re full. Plus, lack of sleep throws off our metabolism. Bottom line: chronic sleep deprivation makes us hungrier and slows down our metabolism.
  7. Coming to a party empty: There’s nothing worse for the health conscience than going to a party and realizing it’s all fried or super creamy options – with no veggies to boot! One tip I always give to clients is to offer to bring a dish or two to the party. Veggie crudités with hummus and shrimp cocktail are healthy options that’ll work well for you and please the host.
  8. Organizing your kitchen wrong: We’re 30% more likely to eat the first thing we see. With that being said, organize your kitchen to optimize this stat. Keep less healthy items in opaque containers and out of sight. Put healthy options front and center. For example, keep a fruit basket out, keep almonds in transparent containers, and stash your produce in the central space of your fridge (not in produce drawers).
  9. Not being in-tune with yourself: When food is seemingly everywhere you look, remember to take a moment to ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” And if you have a strong craving, give yourself 15 minutes before indulging. With this “waiting time”, check email or return a phone call and have a glass of H20. If you still have the craving, go ahead, have a serving. However, your craving will likely be gone because it wasn't true hunger; you just saw it or thought about it long enough to spark a craving.
  10. Skipping the gym: Just like you stick to meetings scheduled by your boss, stick to your sweat sessions. Schedule them into your calendar. You’ll find that working out will have you making much better food choices. One good choice does lend to more good choices.

Corinne Dobbas, MS, RD is a San Francisco-based registered dietitian specializing in weight loss, nutrition communications, and healthy living. Passionate about empowering people to reach and maintain a state of optimal wellness, Corinne’s message reaches thousands of people each and every day. She strives to help cultivate the best, healthiest, and happiest “you” there is. Learn more about her at