9 Simple tips to help you avoid "holiday" weight gain

We get most of the unwanted calories from added sugar drinks and foods such as processed foods like cereals, granola bars, breads, and cakes.

The following basics are a good place to start this holiday season (and for all meals in general throughout the year):
  1. Cut back on added sugar and refined carbohydrates. Diets that are high in sugar and refined carbs (white rice, sweet snack foods, white bread) and low in whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat) have been linked with health problems, while diets high in whole grains and low in refined carbohydrates tend to be linked with more positive outcomes.

  2. Celebrate by eating the foods you want in moderation: Don't skip meals because skipping a meal before a holiday party, instead of getting fewer calories for the day, you might end up getting more because people tend to overeat when they're hungry. Eating a small snack before a party can take the edge off. Eating fewer calories during the day. High-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which fill you up without a lot of calories, are good choices. For example, avocados, while they're high in fat and calories — just half of one packs 120 calories, about the equivalent of a slice of bread — avocados are low in sugar and rich in fiber. Incorporate oily fish like salmon into your diet and vegetables should be the cornerstone of your meals. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants, (says journalist and food writer Michael Pollan)."

  3. Snack on nuts. Nuts are high in protein and can help stabilize blood-sugar levels — which, if they plummet, can make healthy people feel "hangry" (hungry and angry) and can be especially dangerous for people with diabetes. Nuts are also a good source of fiber, a key nutrient that helps aid digestion and keeps us feeling full.

  4. Place and pace: Don't park yourself near the foodt table at holiday parties. Socialize at the opposite end of the room. Try to make just one pass through the food line and then eat slowly. If you're tempted to go through the line again, wait at least 10 to 20 minutes. The urge may pass.

  5. Limit portions: It's easy to over-serve yourself at holiday meals or parties. Try selecting only those foods you most want to eat. Try using the smallest plate available. Try to serve yourself only half of what you'd normally take. A bite or 2 may satisfy a craving.

  6. Rethink drinks: Alcohol and sugary drinks can also contribute to weight gain. Try sparkling water with a lime twist.

  7. Exercise: Preventing weight gain requires you to use up the calories that you take in. You do that through physical activity. Try taking a stroll through your neighborhood to view holiday light displays. To burn more calories, instead of napping, get outside after a big holiday meal for a walk or a game of touch football.

  8. Weigh in: If you notice your weight going up, perhaps you'll have the inspiration you need to watch what you're eating a little more carefully or to become a bit more active.

  9. Cook with care: Often, a simple ingredient substitution can reduce the fat and calories in your favorite recipes without sacrificing flavor. For example:

    Use reduced-fat or nonfat cheeses in place of regular cheese in salads and casseroles.

    Top dishes with sliced almonds rather than fried onion rings.

    Bake muffins and quick breads, such as banana bread, using applesauce for a portion of the butter or oil. Substitute just a little at a time.