Holiday celebrations are in full swing. There are office parties, Chanukah parties and Christmas celebrations, all culminating for the granddaddy of them all — New Year’s Eve. How can you maintain a healthful lifestyle this time of year and still enjoy yourself without the gift of a double chin?
I’ve compiled a few strategies to help you survive the holiday excess without feeling deprived or guilty for allowing yourself to indulge now and then.
One way to prevent the extra weight gain this time of year is to think about what the holidays represent to you. This will clarify your values for the holidays and put food in perspective. When people truly think about what the holidays mean to them it’s more about spending time with family and friends, giving and receiving, and family traditions than the actual food.

Balance indulgences, portions

You don’t need to deprive yourself during these festive times, just balance your indulgences with healthful options and portions. It’s what you do the majority of the time that counts. Knowing that you have holiday plans and celebrations on certain days can help you balance the rest of the week. If you maintain your usual diet and exercise routine five out of the seven days, you may indulge at a party or celebration over the weekend.
But if you find yourself snacking on holiday treats from the office or downing the seasonal eggnog lattes in addition to holiday celebrations on three or more days, you will gain weight.

Always plan ahead

Never go to a party hungry. Before you go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack to curb your appetite. Try half a cup of low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt and fruit or some veggies and low fat dip or hummus. This small effort can save you hundreds of unwanted calories by arming you with the protection to be more selective and mindful of your appetizer choices.
Make half your plate fruits and/or vegetables.  Whether you are at a luncheon, dinner or a buffet celebration, build half your plate with salad and vegetables. This will ensure that half the calories you consume will most likely be lower in total fat and saturated fat. Survey the buffet before you start building your plate with the most healthful options first and then sample size portions of the richer foods.

Watch the drinks

Alcohol and holiday punches and nogs can be a major source of hidden calories. A single shot of liquor, about 2 ounces, is nearly 125 calories. A 5-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce glass of beer is about 160. Sweet mixed drinks can be 250 to 400 calories. Try to alternate between non-alcoholic, calorie-free drinks and lighter cocktails.

Avoid the sauces, heavy dips

Steer clear of sauces and dips made from cream, half-and-half, or full fat sour cream. Use oil and vinegar, vinaigrettes or low-fat dressings and dips.  Take the sauces or dressings on the side and use the fork-dip method to moderate the amount you use with your meal.
As you celebrate this time of year, remember the true meaning of the holidays. Approach each day with a positive mindset and try some new techniques that can translate into healthier choices and less regrets after the New Year.

Low fat sour cream spinach dip

A healthier version of creamy spinach dip will help you manage your weight during the holidays. (Photo courtesy Google Images)

(4 Tablespoons):  Calories 35; Fat 1g (2% of DV); Sat. Fat 0.5g (3% of DV); Cholesterol 5mg (2% of DV); Sodium 70mg (3%); Carbohydrates 4g (1% of DV); Fiber 1g (4% of DV); Sugar 2g; Protein 3 g.
1 cup Greek yogurt 0% fat
1/4 cup low fat cream cheese
1 cup chopped frozen spinach
1/3 cup chopped water chestnuts
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 packet Simply Organic French onion or ranch dip mix (available at Whole Foods)
Mix all ingredients together and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.
For a quick, low-calorie snack, I like to halve and hollow out a Persian cucumber (spoon out the seeds) and fill each half with 1 tablespoon of dip and serve with a few whole-grain crackers. This is a tasty anytime snack that is loaded with flavor and very filling for only 150 calories. Enjoy!

Lori Salerno, M.S., R.D., C.P.T. is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer who provides medical nutrition therapy to groups and individuals in Santa Monica and recipe and menu analysis for restaurants nationwide. Contact her at www.eatwelldailynutrition.com.

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