Temptations will abound during the holiday season, but dietitians say there are ways to limit weight gains.
The Thanksgiving turkey isn't the only one who's getting stuffed this holiday season.
With Thanksgiving dinners under our belts, we still have more than a month of office parties, buffets, Christmas candy and New Year's celebrations to eat through, and dietitians say the average American gains between five and 10 pounds.
"In six short weeks, you can add six big pounds," said Adrienne Moore Baxter, a registered dietitian with the Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
"When I think of the holidays, I think we need to change how we respond to people or pressures that cue holiday overeating," Moore Baxter said.
Linda Rippetoe, a clinical dietitian at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said the standard holiday meal -- turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie and ice cream and eggnog -- has 166 grams of fat, compared to the 70 grams of fat contained in daily intake of 2,100 calories.
"A lot of times, (patients will) come in and think because they're on a special diet, they won't be able to enjoy the holidays, and that's not the way it is," Rippetoe said.
Don't stuff yourself
Instead of avoiding holiday meals and parties, follow a pre-set plan to avoid -- or at least limit -- unwanted weight gains. Rippetoe said a buffet-style layout allows people to choose a type of food they love but don't eat often.
"Single out the things you really want, instead of taking everything," she said. "Choose the food you're really going to enjoy, and then enjoy them while you're consuming them. Don't eat rapidly."
Use a smaller plate, and -- possibly the hardest suggestion of all -- don't go back for seconds. Rippetoe said diners don't enjoy the second and third helpings as much as the first, anyway.
Moore Baxter said to eat on schedule -- especially if it's before a function that will feature tempting, high-calorie foods. People who starve themselves before going will likely eat too much, too fast.
"Don't skip a meal, because you're less able to resist the first thing you see," she said. "I think a good idea is to greet everyone before you settle into eating. Focus more on people, and less on food. You'll have less time allotted for eating and are liable to survey the buffet table and select the food you should eat."
Another key is to skip the chips and snack on vegetables, avoiding the high-fat snack foods. When all else fails, move away from the table or the area where the food is.
Between shopping trips, Christmas functions for the children and family obligations, many people see their daily schedules fall apart. But a hectic schedule doesn't mean nutritional meals or an exercise program should fall by the wayside.
"If you're going to be eating fast food, stop someplace that serves something nutritious, such as a salad," Rippetoe said. "And even if it's not the length of time you normally exercise, you need to keep that routine in place if you're trying to maintain or lose weight."
After a holiday dinner, families sometime remain at the table, and the food is constantly in sight. Moore Baxter said people with low temptation thresholds should find a chore that doesn't involve food, such as loading the dishwasher.
People who plan get-togethers or have a tradition of giving away holiday food and candy can also help others keep off the calories. Moore Baxter said tips include cutting desserts into smaller portions and offering more vegetable side dishes. Separate the fat from the broth before making gravy and use corn starch instead of butter and flour to thicken the gravy.
Fruitcake fans should buy the one-pound instead of three-pound tins, and give away excess holiday candies -- even if they were a gift from someone else. When making holiday food, make the high-fat foods last because you'll have less time to nibble, Rippetoe said.
Eating sensibly doesn't mean taking all the fun out of holiday feasts, Rippetoe said.
"Absolutely not. That's a part of our social and cultural life," she said. "If you can try moderation throughout the year, and if you know you're going to go a little overboard during the holidays, the goal is to remember if you can maintain your weight, you're doing good."
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