Tonight I will be at the South Mountain Community College Laveen Campus putting on a workshop “Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain”. This is an all too common occurrence with most Americans putting on between 2-5 or more pounds, that never come off in the new year. Bellow is a handout I put together with some tips and strategies for the holidays!

Holiday Eating

It’s Party Time! Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s: our social calendars are often overflowing with social events during the holidays. Many people fear that they will have to give up their favorite foods or accept those few extra pounds that they put on. The Good News – you can still enjoy those holiday treats and avoid the ‘typical’ weight gain with a little planning and balance.

This is the time of year to celebrate, and sharing food is one of the pleasures of social gatherings. To help you enjoy traditional holiday meals and party foods with family and friends, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle too, here are some tips:

• Create a plan. If you are going to a dinner party, eat small meals during the day to help control hunger and leave room for enjoying the special holiday foods. If the holiday menu is cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, enjoy a small meal right before going to the party to prevent overeating. If the cocktail party precedes dinner, try having a piece of fruit before the party and sample only one plate of hors d’oeuvres. By doing this it will help curb your hunger. When we feel hungry it is easy to overeat, so by eating a small, healthy snack, such as fruit or carrot sticks, before you head out the door, will help you avoid rushing to the buffet table when you arrive at a party.

• One trip to the buffet. Take a quick preview and be selective! Choose only the foods you really want to eat and keep portions small. Often just a taste satisfies a craving or curiosity. Once you have what you want move away from the buffet table; this will eliminate unconscious nibbling.

• Choose lower-calorie party foods. Great choices include raw vegetables with a small amount of dip, or fresh fruit. Try boiled shrimp or scallops with cocktail sauce or lemon. Go easy on fried appetizers, cheese cubes and sweets. Just one Cheese cube can be as much as 80-100 calories!

• Bring a Dish. Want to be sure there is something healthy to eat? Bring something to the party that is healthy and delicious like a platter with raw vegetables with a yogurt or hummus dip, or a platter of fresh seasonal fruit. Be a trendsetter.

• Socialize! Seize the opportunity to catch up with friends and family, meet someone new – conversation is calorie free! Not only do you get to connect with others but it also helps you pace your rate of eating.

• Enjoying a sit-down dinner party? Make your first helping small. Small portions leave room for seconds. Hostesses expect you to take seconds and even dessert, start small.

• Limit or avoid alcohol. Alcohol lowers your barriers to eating more. Try sparkling water and a lime twist rather than wine, champagne or a mixed drink. Sparkling water doesn’t supply calories.

• Dried fruit, nuts, dates and figs. These are popular holiday treats that provide significant health benefits too. Nuts are high in fat, but most nuts have mostly unsaturated fat, making them healthier choices. Dried fruits like cherries, cranberries and apricots are rich in phytochemicals, plant compounds that help in the prevention of heart disease and some forms of cancer. You can serve nuts and dried fruit as snacks or use them in casseroles, salads or cookies and cakes.

• Be active and keep moving. Plan activities that burn calories. Walk the mall, plan a party that involves fitness, skiing or hiking. Every little bit helps so try parking your car at the outer edge of the parking lot or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Physical activity can make you feel less guilty when enjoying party favorites.

• Be realistic. The holidays are not the time to lose weight. Your goal should be to maintain your weight by balancing party eating with other meals. Plan to win the calorie battle by eating fewer calories on the days between parties.

Forget the all-or-nothing mindset. Rather than depriving yourself those special holiday foods, enjoy them in small quantities. Add more fruits and vegetables into your meals to help curb your appetite and keep the calories down.

The holidays are notorious for being the high calorie, over the top eating that puts an average of seven pounds on between Thanksgiving and New Years. If nothing I have presented strikes a cord just think of the future of your waistline. Start a new tradition of getting through the holidays and still being able to get the top button done. I know how much the season brings in closeness and fun, but weigh the costs before you indulge. Happy Holiday Eating.