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15 Tips to Avoid Overeating This Holiday Season

If you've already been enjoying slightly more than your share of eggnog, stuffing and Christmas cookies, you can take comfort in the fact that the average American only gains about one pound from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

holiday eating

Make room in your diet for holiday treats you love by passing up those you don't.

But don't let that fool you. Gaining one pound each year adds up, and in fact may be a major contributor to becoming obese later in life.

"These findings suggest that developing ways to avoid holiday weight gain may be extremely important for preventing obesity and the diseases associated with it," said National Institute of Child Health and Human Development director Duane Alexander, M.D.

This holiday season could be the one where you defy the odds and put on no pounds at all or (gasp) even lose a few. And don't worry -- it's not about denying yourself. In fact, the tips below are all about satisfying your hunger and enjoying the season to its fullest, without adding inches to your waistline.

  1. Eat more of the healthy foods (this will leave less room for the desserts). Some common healthy holiday foods are turkey, pork roast and chicken, sweet potatoes, low-sugar cranberry sauce and veggies.

  2. Snack on veggie crudités, a handful of nuts, or cold leftover turkey to avoid binging at a party.

  3. Keep alcoholic drinks to a minimum, and if you're going to drink, choose a glass of red wine over eggnog.

  4. Eat breakfast, and lunch, before the big dinner. Otherwise you'll be starving and likely to eat more.

  5. When you're at parties, stand away from the food tables (so you can't casually consume hundreds of extra calories).

  6. Keep up with your exercise routine, or sneak in some extra activity when you can (a few extra laps around the mall, a long walk after dinner, a family trip to go ice-skating).

  7. Change your mindset: if you expect to eat a lot during the holidays, you will. But if you regard a holiday meal like any other meal, you'll keep your eating under control.

holiday eating

Holiday meals are an excellent time to catch up with your friends and loved ones ... and the more you talk, the less you'll eat.

  1. Serve yourself. This way, you can take small portions and skip things you're not in love with altogether.

  2. Indulge wisely. If you're going to eat something "bad," make it something you really love, and something you can only get at this time of year (i.e. not mashed potatoes, bread and butter, or chocolate chip cookies).

  3. Don't eat to please others. Even if your great aunt made her famous pecan pie, don't feel obligated to take a piece unless you really want to.

  4. Make it a point to engage others in conversation. You'll be distracted from the food and will have a better time.

  5. Eat slowly and wait at least 20 minutes before going back for seconds.

  6. Beat the "I can only get this today" mentality by asking the host for the recipes of dishes you love. This way, you'll know that you can prepare them anytime you want (and there's no need to eat all you can today).

  7. Deal with your emotions. If you're overeating because you're lonely, sad or anxious, treat yourself to a movie, a relaxing bath or a walk to see the holiday lights -- anything that doesn't involve food.

  8. Be picky. Pass up the daily treats at your office (eating a red and green doughnut will not make your workday go any faster), the candy bowl at the bank and the store-bought cookie tin your neighbor gave you in favor of homemade treats you'll really savor.

Recommended Reading

How to Keep Your Spirits High During the Upcoming Holidays

Your Play-by-Play on the Nutritional Values (or Lack Thereof) of Every Item on a Typical Thanksgiving Table


National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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