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Holidays Don't Have to Leave You Heavier

Smart choices, even chewing gum, can help keep extra pounds at bay, expert says

SUNDAY, Dec. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Because food is such a focal point of the holidays, it's all too easy to pack on extra pounds when joining family and friends in celebration.

But a bit of planning may help you avoid weight gain, says Jennifer Ebelhar, an assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.

"It's OK to indulge in a little of your favorite holiday treats. But try planning ahead for indulgences and cutting back in other areas. If you simply must have the dessert, try cutting back on other high-calorie sides that don't matter as much to you," she said in a prepared statement.

Ebelhar offered the following tips for preventing holiday weight gain:

  • Make healthy changes to your favorite holiday treats. For example, use applesauce instead of oil in your holiday breads, use egg substitute instead of whole eggs, and try plain, nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream in recipes.
  • Choose wisely. Before you fill your plate, think about which foods are your favorites and which ones you can do without. It's also a good idea to fill up on low-calorie foods first to avoid overindulging. Remember that foods aren't the only major source of calories. Drinks such as sodas, fruit punch, eggnog and alcoholic beverages can contain 150 to 450 calories per glass.
  • Chew slowly and enjoy your food. "Make one plate of the foods you really want. Eat it slowly, enjoying it and savoring every last bite. And then pop in a stick of gum and position yourself away from the food," Ebelhar said.
  • Instead of putting out lots of cookies, candy and other sweet treats, provide healthier choices like fruit, vegetables and nuts for your family and friends.
  • Get exercise. It can help keep off unwanted pounds, relieve stress and regulate your appetite.
  • Don't put too much pressure on yourself. You're not going to be able to lose weight during the holidays. Your goal is to try to maintain your weight. "If you overindulge at a holiday party, put it behind you and return to your usual eating plan the next day without guilt or despair," Ebelhar said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers healthy holiday tips.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Saint Louis University, news release, Nov. 12, 2007

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