In the war against overeating, the holiday season presents a virtual minefield of tempting sweets and sumptuous feasts that can result in unwanted pounds.
Faced with these dangers, do we just hoist the white flag of surrender?
No, say dietitians. Arm yourself with strategies to sidestep the kind of indulgence that leads to remorse when January rolls around.
We asked dietitians for their suggestions:
Find ways to get more exercise during the temptation season: now into January. Sneak in more physical activity naturally, like parking in another lot that is farther from work.
On the job, dont keep candy at your desk. Youll cut 125 extra calories a day by placing the dish out of sight or six feet away from your workspace.
Plan ahead. Have healthful foods, like low-fat yogurt, available so you dont go to the break room and have to have that brownie
When you bring a healthy snack to work and tell yourself, This is my snack, youre engaging in mindful, not mindless, eating.
Try to include fruits and vegetables into meals and snacks. Choose foods that are high in fiber, vitamin-rich, are more filling and have fewer calories.
Stay hydrated throughout the day. The body doesnt distinguish between hunger and thirst. Drinking plenty of water can stave off the hunger pangs that come with trying to restrict calories.
Make the foods you usually eat more appealing by incorporating cranberries or other colorful fruits. Add cinnamon and Craisins or raisins to a bowl of oatmeal. When foods are more attractive, people will usually choose it. This is especially true for children, who are drawn to food thats fun-looking, bright and colorful.
AS A HOST
Presentation is paramount, too, when youre hosting a party at home. When you serve healthy food as the first items on a buffet and on fancy dishes, people generally take more. Start the line with pretty fruit, a nice vegetable tray or fruit kabobs.
When meal planning, look at the plate. A meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and corn is a tan plate. Switch out some elements for Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, or a spinach salad with pomegranate seeds and vinaigrette. You get all the holiday colors (as well as) healthful foods.
Add fruits, such as apples or pears, into stuffing recipes
Consider tweaking traditional and comfort foods. In mashed potatoes, for example, omit sour cream, cheese and butter, and use mashed cauliflower instead.
AS A GUEST
Reduce your calorie intake throughout the day if youre planning to attend a party that night.
Before the party, eat a snack from two food groups. Eating something high in fiber and something high in protein will keep you feeling fuller longer.
Eat a piece of fruit with low-fat cheese or whole-grain bread so youre not famished when you go to the party. When youre hungry, those high-calorie foods will look twice as tempting.
At the party, use a smaller plate; you will eat less.
Drink one calorie-filled beverage followed by one non-caloric beverage, such as water. People are not aware of the calories they consume from beverages as much as those from food. Even with fruit punch, especially if you added 7-Up or a calorie-full soda, the caloric count mounts.
Give nonfood gifts that encourage physical activity, such as passes to a local water park or bowling. Or, instead of food, give a service, such as free baby-sitting.
Food is part of our culture. Its tied into all those feelings that go with it. We like to treat ourselves. We like to treat each other.
Those emotional underpinnings of tradition make it tougher to choose healthier options.
Those habits dont necessarily need to be broken maybe just adjusted a bit. Enjoy those traditional foods that you look forward to, just eat less of them.