Eat Beat

With focus, you can avoid the typical
3-pound seasonal weight gain.

by Gina Roberts-Grey

Research shows that we tend to gain an average of three pounds during the holiday season, though it’s easy to gain more. Nasty weather and busy schedules can throw us off of our exercise routines, even before the parties and feasting begin.
Here are tips that can help you retain your pre-holiday shape.

Wise Choices
Throughout the holidays, we spend much of our time surrounded by sugary treats, salty snacks and tempting, calorie-laden drinks.

Says dietician Amanda Bartelt of Dover, DE, "Start your day with cereal that is high in fiber to feel less hungry and decrease the temptation to overeat." Beans, greens, wholegrain breads and whole-wheat tortillas are also good sources of fiber.

Drinking water can also make us feel less hungry. Flavored waters are tasty, calorie-free alternatives to sugary fruit juices or eggnog, which can be high in fat. Some flavored water brands are fortified with nutrients such as folic acid, calcium and magnesium that aid in weight loss.

When choosing desserts, remember that pumpkin and sweet potato pie pack the healthy combination of beta carotene and fiber. Depending on the recipes, they can be lower in fat and sugar and have about half the calories of cheesecakes and pecan pies. Take a thin slice.

You don't have to abstain from holiday candy or Christmas cookies. Just eat one, or split a piece with your spouse.

Dine Out Carefully
Eating out is sometimes a necessity during the hectic holidays. But a typical large-portion restaurant meal can contain 1,600-2,200 calories, more than most of us should eat for a whole day.

When dining out, split a plate, take some food home, or choose low-fat items. "Use mental pictures to recognize the size of a normal portion," says Barb Ulrich, a Hamilton, NJ, Weight Watchers leader. Look for baked, steamed or grilled entrees. Choose fish or poultry. Substitute for French fries.

Cut the Fat
Traditional holiday foods are often high in fat and calories. Preparing a healthy holiday dinner doesn't mean you have to give up your family's favorite dishes.

Bartelt suggests basting the turkey with chicken broth or vegetable juice instead of the fatty drippings. "Place meat on a rack so it doesn't soak in the fat in the bottom of the pan," she adds. "Even cutting the amount of butter or margarine in potato recipes in half can make a difference. Make a low-fat version of mashed potatoes by baking potatoes, scooping out the flesh, whipping in evaporated skim milk and adding seasonings to taste."

Use flavored vinegars or low-fat dressing on salads. Reach for turkey breast or lean ham on cold cut platters. "Low-fat condiments like salsa, Dijon mustard or balsamic vinegar are great alternatives to sandwich spreads," says Bartelt. For gravy, separate out the fat with a skimmer, use chicken broth or purchase fat-free varieties from the supermarket.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer.