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Enjoy the holidays without the weight gain

Published:Tuesday | December 16, 2014 | 12:38 PM

On average, most persons gain weight during the holiday season. While the weight gain may not be dramatic, research shows it tends to stick and accumulate over the years. In fact, recent studies have revealed that more than 2.1 billion people - close to 30 per cent of the global population - are overweight or obese.

But you don't have to succumb to this progression, say experts. You can enjoy the holidays without packing on the pounds. And with just a week to go for the major feasting, it's best to prepare yourself from now to resist the urge to binge on all the goodies.

"There are strategic steps to avoid holiday weight gain while still enjoying friends, family and holiday feasts," noted Sonya Angelone, registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.

In preparation for a big holiday party or feast, do not skip meals throughout the day. This may result in overeating later.

"It is especially important to eat breakfast," said Angelone. "High-fiber and high-protein foods like oatmeal and milk with fruit, an egg and spinach on whole wheat toast, Greek yogurt with nuts, or nut butter on a whole-wheat English muffin will satisfy hunger without a lot of calories."

Holiday meals tend to be large or buffet-style and include second and third helpings. While most people wouldn't consider eating an entire cake, a common mistake is eating large portions of foods that are perceived as healthful.

To avoid overeating, use a smaller plate. It will encourage proper portion sizes. Choose lean cut meats, mix your stuffing with vegetables, and half the sugar requirements for the ingredients, adding some dried fruits instead.

Start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. Research shows eating a salad before your meal can help you eat fewer calories overall. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Before you go back for seconds, wait 10 minutes to see if you really are still hungry.

Including nutrient-rich foods in your diet is great, just remember that these foods have calories too, which should be taken into consideration with your whole eating plan. "And be mindful of alcohol consumption. Drink more water throughout a party to quench your thirst and help keep the cocktails to one or two," stated Angelone.

Don't go to the dinner or party starving or everything is going to look enticing to you and you will surely pig out. You may also end up drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, which will have a real negative effect you don't want. Make sure you've had some water and something to eat at least an hour before you head out.

Remember, alcohol is calorie-dense, so too much of it will pack on the pounds, which you don't want. Knowing your limitations and sticking to it is very important. Equally important is knowing the alcoholic content of each liquor you plan to consume. Weekly alcohol consumption should be no more than 21 units of alcohol for a mature male and 14 units for a mature female, which would be equivalent to about two glasses of red or white wine five times a week or two beers five times a week.

Remember to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity into your day to promote health during the holidays and be sure to involve the whole family. The holiday is no excuse to skip working out. Exercising is about you taking care of your health and body and nothing should come between that. Exercise is also a great stress buster, and given how stressful holiday preparations can get, make sure you still set aside that minimum 30 minutes a day to get the heart pumping and the sweat glands bursting.

For more healthy holiday tips and information, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Having healthful eating and exercise plans for holiday meals will help ensure success throughout the season and all year long.

Above all else, do enjoy the holidays, ensuring it is a pleasant, memorable experience with family, friends as you indulge in all the wonderful festivities that come with this time of year.