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Tips For Holiday Eating Can Help Keep Off Added Pounds

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 7, 2011) - The following column appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday, Dec. 4

Tips for holiday eating can help keep off added pounds

By Sheri Setser-Legg

Once again the holiday season is upon us - a time for family, friends, fun and food. During the holidays, unfortunately, we tend to forget our healthy eating habits and instead take every opportunity to overindulge.  We end each year eating everything we want.  All these added calories inevitably lead to the extra five-to-seven pounds the average American gains from Thanksgiving through the new year. 

Controlling that weight gain can be simple. If you continue healthy habits you’ve maintained throughout the year, you can likely avoid those unwanted holiday pounds. That doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the season and enjoy some of your favorite treats. It just means you need to continue eating a variety of foods and control those special splurges.  Here are the some tips for healthy holiday eating:

  • Be realistic: Don’t expect to lose weight during the holiday season.  The average person actually gains weight this time of year. Simply maintaining your weight is a sign of success.
  • Plan time for exercise: Chances are you have extra time off work so develop a regular exercise program or pick up the pace of your current exercise schedule. Not only does regular exercise burn excess calories, it also relieves stress during this hectic time. 
  • Practice healthy holiday cooking: Our favorite dishes don’t have to be fat and calorie-laden nightmares. Just a few modifications in the way you cook can turn a favorite into a healthier indulgence. By using lower fat ingredients, dishes can have substantially less calories.
  • Don’t skip meals: For parties, don’t starve yourself in anticipation. You’ll likely arrive ravenous and eat everything. Instead, continue a regular meal and snack schedule. Don’t go longer than four hours without eating. By eating regularly, you are less likely to overindulge.
  • Know when to say when: Eat only until you are satisfied, not stuffed.  When you eat, do just that. Sit down, get comfortable and savor that holiday treat.  By paying attention to your food, you are able to monitor your portions more closely.  Enjoy your favorite dishes but do so with a controlled amount. 
  • Get bang for your buck: Instead of engaging in indiscriminate eating, consider if this is food you truly enjoy or is unique to the holiday season.  If so, have a small portion. If not, bypass it completely. 
  • Have a party game plan: We make poor choices due to lack of planning.  Have a healthy snack before you attend a holiday celebration.  Survey the buffet for the healthiest choices and add those to your plate first. 
  • Keep healthy snacks handy: These will keep you full and less tempted to visit the candy jar.  Fruits, veggies or cereal bars make great snacks.
  • Watch those beverages: Alcohol contains many empty calories and lowers inhibitions, leading to overeating. 
  • Be assertive: People show love through food, so it might feel rude to refuse your aunt’s casserole.  Be up front with friends and family that you are trying to stay healthy. 

We tell ourselves we’ll lose it as the New Year arrives. However, most of us know those well-meaning resolutions rarely last past February.  Don’t delay, start now working toward a happy, healthy 2012!

Sheri Setser-Legg, MS, RD, LD, CDE, is a diabetes nutrition educator at the University of Kentucky's Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center.