By Natasha Persaud

The holidays can be a tricky time if you want to avoid holiday weight gain. There are so many tempting treats, you need to be proactive to stick to good eating habits, says registered dietitian Amy Jamieson-Petonic, manager of the employee wellness program at the Cleveland Clinic and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. That means having a battle plan:

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At work, where the parade of chocolate, cakes and cookies seems endless, tell yourself: “If I’m going to eat something, it really needs to be fabulous and worth the splurge.” “Flavanol-rich dark chocolate is one of the healthier choices," says Jamieson-Petonic. "Research shows it may help to control blood pressure and protect the heart."

Before the party: “When you're hungry and your blood sugar is low, you start to crave foods that are carb-rich and fatty, which can contribute to weight gain. A good defense is to have a small snack of carbs and protein before leaving home. Try apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut butter, or a few crackers with low-fat cheese.”

At the appetizer table, be conservative: “Avoid anything deep-fried, creamy or saucy, since these foods tend to be loaded with fat and calories; for example, cheese balls, pigs in a blanket and mini quiches. Opt for appetizers that appear closer to their natural state, such as veggies with herbs, shrimp cocktail, fresh fruit, grilled chicken skewers with a sweet and sour sauce, which is lower in fat and calories than a cream sauce, and grilled shrimp with cocktail sauce.”

At mealtime, choose an entrée you really want, and savor a small portion of it. Another tip: Instead of a large dinner plate, use a small, appetizer-size one (shoot for a diameter of six inches) to control your portions. Fill half of the plate with fruits and veggies, a quarter with protein, such as fish, poultry or meat, and a quarter with carbs, such as brown rice or whole grain pasta.

For dessert, put a small bit of cake or pie in a wine glass; if the dessert has a crust (for example, pumpkin pie), leave the crust behind. Not only will your dessert look pretty, you’ll cut down on your portion size and the calories you consume. It also helps to cut back on your calories and fat earlier in the day, so you can enjoy dessert now.

Along with the holiday eating, engage in plenty of physical activities to burn off extra calories: make a snowman with the kids, go out caroling, play a game of table tennis, dance and volunteer. If possible, walk to your holiday parties.

Finally, remember the real joy of the season is spending time with friends and family, not food. When you focus on your loved ones, you’ll be happier, not plumper!

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 01 Nov 2008

Last Modified: 12 Dec 2013