4 practical ways to avoid packing on holiday pounds

Dec. 20, 2014—Lasting happy memories—that’s what you want the holidays to bring you. Not lasting pounds. But with calorie-rich food almost everywhere you turn during the festive season, is it really possible to be a smart cookie and still smile when you step on the scale?

Absolutely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is encouraging all of us to eat mindfully this holiday season. And no, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the eggnog or other special treats you’ve been looking forward to for weeks.

But to stay festive and fit, some moderation is in order. To help your health stay on track through the holidays, follow these 4 tips from CDC, the American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Strike a balance. Try to find that middle ground between overeating and depriving yourself. Are you headed for an evening party? Then eat small, fairly low-calorie meals throughout the day, starting with breakfast. You won’t arrive hungry, which can help you control what you eat.

At buffets, downsize your plate. Using a salad or dessert plate will help keep portions in check. And be strategic about where you socialize. Move away from the buffet when chatting to avoid repeat trips for food.

When it comes to dessert at holiday gatherings, don’t be afraid to savor some sweets. But use the buddy system and split treats with a friend. A mere taste often satisfies a craving, so you can also sample 1 or 2 small sweets all by yourself.

Go easy on liquid calories. They can add up quickly. At parties, try having a glass of water between each drink. That will help you feel full and your weight stay steady.

As for that eggnog, why not prepare it this way? Fill a glass half- or three-quarters full with low-fat or fat-free milk. Then pour in the eggnog. You’ll still get the flavor, but with far fewer calories. And remember, keeping alcohol out of the mix can reduce the number of calories as well.

Try some makeover magic. Just as you can transform eggnog into a healthier, less calorie-laden drink, you can improve upon other holiday foods through simple substitutions. When baking:

  • Replace butter by substituting equal parts cinnamon-flavored, unsweetened applesauce
  • Add flavor with extracts—such as vanilla, almond or peppermint—rather than sugar
  • Use a reduced-calorie sugar substitute
  • Substitute low-fat or fat-free milk for whole or heavy cream

And when cooking:

  • Choose low-fat or fat-free milk instead of whole milk or heavy cream
  • Bake, broil, steam or boil rather than fry

Don’t take a holiday from exercise. You owe it to yourself—and your waistline—to keep moving, so burn off holiday calories by staying active. After dinner, you might gather your family for a walk and check out all the holiday lights in your neighborhood . If it snows, take the kids sledding.

 

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