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What family gatherings can do to your waistline

The holidays don't have to be a minefield of calories

Posted: November 13, 2008 9:35 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2008 4:55 a.m.
What is it about all the holidays that occur from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve that makes us veer off track? Yes, it's that time of year when your will power "takes a back seat" and your common sense grabs the wheel and stomps on the gas! Your insatiable cravings say "yes" to everything that is passed in front of you.

With all the family gatherings, holiday shopping, holiday parties and working late, it leaves us with little time to sleep, much less exercise. It's during this season that we rush from one party or celebration to the next indulging in oversized portions of food and snacks, eat late at night and at different times of day than we normally would. This is how the pounds slowly creep up.

Pouring on the calories
Holiday gatherings and parties are often associated with food, fun and alcoholic beverages. This is where many people go overboard with calorie consumption. As you know, drinking a liquid beverage does not give you the same sensation of fullness as with solid foods. So people continue having one drink after the other and before they know it - they have consumed half or more of their suggested daily caloric intake in just four or five drinks.

Here are a few tips on holiday spirits:
n Alcohol is loaded with calories. Add to that - it goes straight to your voice of reason and says: "Hey, eat all you want, they'll make more!" The will power you arrived with soon slips out the door and many calories later you are still feeding your case of "drunken munchies."
n If you must have a drink, wines are better choices over hard liquor and dessert drinks. Red wine contains antioxidants from the grape seeds and skin. Red and white wine averages about 100 calories per glass.
n Although beer is fat free, it still has calories. Save 45 calories by drinking light beer over regular beer.
n Cut calories in half by diluting wine and other drinks with seltzer and ice.
n Champagne is only 125 calories compared to a White Russian (Vodka, Kahlua, heavy cream), which is about 450 calories.
n Most eggnog recipes contain 400-500 calories depending on how it is made. There are lower calorie options at the supermarket. Most contain about 100-200 calories without alcohol.

Here's your "plan of attack" before you arrive at holiday parties and gatherings:
n Don't arrive to the party hungry. Eating a meal or snack before you arrive will prevent uncontrollable urges to attack the food spread like the Tasmanian Devil - devouring each morsel until it's gone.
n When dining at a restaurant, eat a piece of fruit or snack before you go to avoid filling up on bread or chips that are served before the meal arrives.
n If you do arrive to the party hungry, drink tomato juice (which is very filling) water or even spritzer to calm your hungry stomach.
n Reach for the fruits and vegetables, which fill you up without filling you out. This way you are less likely to say "yes" when the appetizer tray covered with bacon-wrapped hotdogs passes by.
n Instead of eating all carbohydrate-rich foods at the party, include a little protein in each meal and snack. Protein will keep you fuller - so you'll eat less and feel full longer. Good choices are turkey, chicken, nuts (without oil and sugar), tofu and salmon.
n Choose foods prepared with spices and herbs instead of those covered in sauces, butter or margarine.
n To save calories and fat, trim the skin and fat off chicken and other meats. Chicken, fish and turkey are leaner selections over ham, steak and pork.
n Avoid deep-fried and breaded foods - these are loaded in calories. Eat foods that are roasted, broiled, boiled, steamed or poached.
n When it comes to sweets and rich desserts, moderation is the key. Healthier choices are Jell-O, pudding and angel food cake.
n The main thing to remember is if you really want to try a special appetizer or dish, try it - even if it's just a bite. This way you don't feel deprived and overindulge at the next meal.

How to prevent weight gain during the holidays:
Consume fewer calories than you expend. A deficit of 500 calories a day over a week (3,500 cal) will result in a loss of one to two pounds a week. Split the 500 calories by exercising enough to burn 250 calories and cut back on 250 calories a day. This is as easy as a one-hour walk around the neighborhood hills and replacing Christmas cookies and eggnog with a couple of slices of turkey and hot tea.

You don't have to be neurotic about what you eat and how much you exercise, just keep your caloric intake in check and fit in exercise as often as you can. It's whatever you do consistently that will result in the success or failure of your weight loss plan.

Cheryl Broughton is an author, fitness TV show host, director of The Fitness Edge Boot Camp, producer, writer and host of "Cheryl Broughton's Secret Weapons." Call 1-888-671-6500 or


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