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You can have your cake and not gain weight during the holidays

During the holiday season, foods high in fat, sugar and calories, and short on nutrition will be abundant. However, you can eat your cake while keeping your weight – it’s all about moderation and attitude. Be positive - don’t let your weight and food cravings control you.

Consider these 10 tips for enjoying the holiday season:

1. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine to help offset increased holiday eating. Try walking or jogging for 15 minutes twice daily; remember exercise time accumulates – two 15 minute workouts are equivalent to one 30 minute workout.

2. Don't skip meals. Starving yourself before a party increases the risk of overeating. In addition, the temptation to eat higher fat and higher calorie food choices intensifies. To curve your appetite before a party, eat a piece of fruit, a box of raisins, a small carton of non-fat or low-fat yogurt, or a string cheese before the party, that way you are not famished when you arrive.

3. Eat fiber rich foods first so that you will feel full from "healthy foods" as opposed to refined starches, which can cause a plummet in blood glucose (sugar) levels and turn into a never-ending hunger cycle. Examples of high-fiber foods are fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

4. If you're hosting a party, make sure you offer your guests plenty of vegetables instead of chips and other food devoid of nutrients. Reduce the saturated fat in holiday recipes. There are plenty of “good” fat and lower calorie substitutes you can use as replacements that taste just as good as the original. Try using applesauce in place of oil in your favorite holiday breads or cookies; or try plain nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream. By replacing yogurt for sour cream you will save 40g of fat and 290 calories in one cup.

5. Offer to bring a “healthy” dish to holiday parties, that way you’ll know there will be something “safe” available.

6. Eliminate or limit high-calorie beverages such as sodas, juices, smoothies, blended coffee drinks and alcohol. There are almost 150 calories in one 12-ounce can of soda or juice. Choose club soda/seltzer or water which are calorie-free instead. Liquors, sweet wines and sweet mixed drinks contain approximately 150-450 calories per glass. If you choose to drink, select wine or lite beer, and use non-alcoholic mixers such as water and club soda/seltzer. Limit your intake to 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per occasion. Remember that alcohol increases appetite and lowers inhibitions.

7. At the meal, divide your plate into one half and two quarters. The half is for vegetables. One quarter is for starch including starchy vegetables (such as corn, peas and potatoes). The other quarter is for protein. Enjoy the roasted salmon, chicken, and turkey without the skin and with cranberry sauce, which is naturally lower in fat and calories; eat less gravy and stuffing, and select only one dessert.

8. Enjoy a dessert. Select one that is home-made, not store bought. This rule should remain throughout the year. Send the leftover desserts home with your guests.

9. Eat slower – you will consume less and feel full and satisfied at the same time. Put your fork down after each bit and have a sip of water. This will help slow the eating process and increase satiety.

10. Plan on not dieting after the New Year. Anticipation of food restriction sets you up for binge-type eating over the holidays. Besides, restrictive diets don’t work in the long run. They increase anxiety, depression, food preoccupation, binge eating, loss of lean body mass, and makes weight re-gain more likely.

Although food is a big part of the holiday season, it doesn’t have to be the focus. Have smaller portions of all of your favorite foods and, remember, moderation is the key.

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