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Vow not to gain weight over the holiday season

News Release Distributed 11/15/11

Many people face the holiday season afraid they will gain weight. And that is a fear with some merit, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

There are temptations galore, and many people gain a pound or two – but usually not any more.

“The problem is that any weight gained during the holiday season tends not to come off the rest of the year, unless the person makes a commitment to weight loss,” she said.

The best advice is not to add any weight during the holiday season at all. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your holiday favorites.

Reames offers these tips to help you enjoy in moderation:

–Don’t try to lose weight over the holidays; strive to maintain your weight.

–Be selective. Think about what foods you really want to eat, which ones you will just sample and which ones you will skip.

–Don’t skip breakfast. Studies show that skipping breakfast often leads to overeating later. Eat a light nutritious snack such as soup, fruit or cereal before going to a party to help curb hunger and make better choices.

–Watch portion sizes. Three ounces lean meat, chicken or fish measure up to a deck of cards or a checkbook. A teaspoon of margarine is the size of the tip of your thumb to the first joint. One-half cup mashed potatoes is half a tennis ball.

–Use a smaller plate to encourage proper portion sizes.

–Eat foods with high water and fiber content including soup, fruits and vegetables. These offer a way to cut back on calories and help you feel full and satisfied.

–Fill your plate with salad and vegetables before moving to the entrees and desserts. Enjoy a large salad before eating other holiday foods and fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

–If you have two parties to attend, choose small portions at each.

–To avoid nibbling on food without thinking about it, move away from the food table after filling your plate.

–Do not deprive yourself of your favorites. Make it a balancing act. Cut the salad dressing and go for a small slice of chocolate mousse pie. Or balance your favorites with low-calorie foods, such as vegetables with a small amount of dip or boiled shrimp with lemon.

–Eat slowly and savor each delicious bite of food. This will help prevent overeating.

–If you're in charge of the menu or preparing items for the meal, make it healthfully delicious and lower in calories.

–When making recipes, substitute lower fat ingredients for higher fat ingredients. Using fat-free or low-fat sour cream or cream cheese in dessert recipes is a great way to enjoy holiday favorites that taste delicious but are much lower in fat and calories.

–For stuffing, substituting fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth and skim milk for butter or other fat will keep the stuffing moist.

–Use skim milk or evaporated skim milk when preparing mashed potatoes. Use herbs rather than salt to flavor.

–For holiday gravy, remove the fat from gravy using a fat separator or refrigerate the food overnight and skim off the hardened fat.

–Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene, the plant source of vitamin A. Bake and top sweet potatoes with cinnamon and nutmeg. If you desire extra sweetness, add a small amount of orange or pineapple juice instead of marshmallows and sugar.

–If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, go easy. They have calories and also can increase your appetite. Start with a calorie-free, nonalcoholic beverage. Satisfy your thirst before having an alcoholic drink. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

The LSU AgCenter nutritionist advises physical activity this time of year because activity can help you avoid picking up extra weight.

"Physical activity is especially helpful during the holidays when you may be eating more than usual," Reames said. "Physical activity helps build muscle, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.”

She said physical activity can improve a person’s sense of well-being and help reduce stress.

Among the ideas Reames offers for increasing your physical activity during the holiday season are:

–Take a walk with friends and family after holiday meals. If your neighborhood is decorated, enjoy the time to admire the decorations.

–If you are near a mall, try mall walking. Do some window shopping and enjoy the decorations.

–Take time to play with your children. Try favorite activities such as biking, throwing the football, shooting hoops or roller-blading.

–During halftime of your favorite football game, join friends in a game of flag football. You can burn as many as 140 calories for every 15 minutes of play, while you burn only 71 calories for each hour of watching the game on TV.

–Celebrate your holidays by spending more time with family and friends than you do with food. Plan time to get together that does not revolve around a meal.

For more information on how to eat more nutritiously, go to

Linda Foster Benedict

Last Updated: 11/15/2011 1:26:05 PM

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