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Avoid the turkey tummy

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Tips for eating healthy this holiday season

Written by Katie Coakley 
Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente

It’s officially the holiday season, a time for gathering with family and friend and sharing the joy of the season … before collapsing in a food coma. Let’s face it: The holidays have become synonymous with lavish meals that are not exactly low calorie. It’s easy to throw caution to the wind and embrace the turkey tummy.

But the holidays don’t have to include weight gain.

People typically gain about a pound over the holidays, said Dr. Patricia Dietzgen, family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente Frisco Medical Offices.

“Given the vast quantities of wonderful, but not always healthy food choices, we often see people gain more during the holidays,” she said.

To avoid packing on that pound (or more), here are some tips from Dr. Dietzgen for staying svelte these next few weeks.

Pay attention to what you’re eating
Many holiday meals are anchored around food that may be traditional, but are not necessarily the healthiest choices. However, there are usually several options. Dietzgen recommends reaching for lean proteins such as chicken, fish, quinoa or lentils and substituting vegetables and fruits for dishes and items high in sugar.

Don’t show up hungry
This may seem like contradictory advice. After all, aren’t you supposed to be hungry before you eat? But it makes sense.

“Eat a light protein-based snack or meal beforehand,” Dietzgen said. “That way, you’re not consuming empty calories.”

By eating something healthy and light before the big meal, you’ll make better food choices and not simply consume mindlessly due to hunger. You’ll also be able to enjoy cookies and other holiday specialties — in moderation, of course.

Choose quality over quantity
It’s important to be mindful of portion size during the holidays. When meals are served family style, it can be difficult to judge how much you’re putting on your (often large) plate. Take small portions; this will allow you to taste several things but not overstuff yourself.

Try to pay attention to the types of calories that you consume, too.

“Liquid calories (like alcohol) have no significant nutrients,” Dietzgen said. “They provide empty calories.”

It’s better to spend your calories on items that are high in nutrients, like vegetables, fruits and protein.

 Of course, the holidays are a time for celebration. As such, it’s easy to throw caution to the wind and overindulge when you’re in a festive move. If you do succumb, don’t dwell on it.

“If you do happen to overindulge, drinking plenty of water and exercising the following day will help,” Dietzgen recommended. “Go for a long walk or a bike ride. Eat healthy the next day.”

Try and maintain your normal workout program
It’s easy to veer off of your regular schedule during the holidays. If evenings are your normal work out time, Dietzgen said, then try to schedule them in the morning so that you don’t skip the workout in lieu of evening parties.

The holiday season can be tough in terms of weight management, but maintaining your weight throughout the year is important to your overall health. Weight gain puts you at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

“Most people gain an average of a pound a year,” Dietzgen said. “Over 20 or 30 years, this adds up!”

In the long run, maintaining weight is much easier than loosing weight, she said. So this holiday season, make good choices, stick with your workout routine and, if you do overindulge, go back to good habits the next day. Your waistline will thank you.