The winter holiday season is that time of the year that is filled with lots of food and holiday cheer. Dieters and all those who want to watch their waistline though will face a strong dilemma when ambushed from every direction by delectable goodies. Since food is the focus of many holiday celebrations, it can be a real challenge to a dieter's willpower.

The National Institute of Health reports that the average American gains at least five pounds during the winter holiday period. Weight gained during the six-week holiday period accounts for most of a person’s total weight gain over a year’s time.

“The great news is sticking to your healthy habits during the holidays does not mean you have to sacrifice your favorite seasonal favorites,” says Natasia Tomlinson, RD, LDN, at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.  “It really comes down to preparation and making smart choices.”

The temptation to overeat is everywhere during the holiday season adds Tomlinson. She suggests drinking plenty of water and eating sensible meals throughout the day. Also, eat a small snack like a piece of fresh fruit before heading to the party to help curb hunger.  "Fill your plate once, no going back for seconds, and never eat directly from a serving dish" advises Tomlinson.

Tomlinson offers some additional tips to help dieters steer a safe course while still enjoying holiday meals and winning the “battle of the bulge”:

-- Don’t skip meals.  If you starve yourself all day trying to “save up” calories for a big meal you are more likely to overeat and take in excess calories.
-- Try to control the amount of alcohol you consume and be aware that there are plenty of low-calorie beers and cocktails available.
-- Do alter recipes to cut calories and fat.   Altering recipes to decrease calories and fat can help the rich holiday foods from undoing your healthy habits. If you’re hosting the gathering, be sure to prepare some lighter dishes like cauliflower puree in place of mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or baked sweet potatoes topped with cinnamon instead of candied yams.
-- Do control portions and eat mindfully.  “Don’t go for second helpings,” adds Tomlinson.  Keeping the meal to a single, well-balanced plate is something you can do in any situation the holidays throw at you, whether you’re hosting the big holiday dinner or you are a guest at a party.  Also, if you don’t absolutely love a dish that is on your plate, don’t finish it!
– Stock up on healthy snacks. When you go shopping, be sure to throw some healthy snacking items in to your cart. Fill up on raw vegetables, such as carrots or celery, which can make a simple snack in times of temptation.

GBMC HealthCare includes Greater Baltimore Medical Center, a 255-inpatient bed acute care not-for-profit hospital which opened in 1965; Greater Baltimore Medical Associates, a group of more than 40 multi-specialty physician practices on the hospital’s Towson campus and in off-campus locations across the region; Greater Baltimore Health Alliance, a network of employed and community-based clinician partners working collaboratively to provide better health and better care at a lower cost, Gilchrist Hospice Care, Maryland’s largest hospice organization offering in-home care, a 34-bed inpatient center on the GBMC Towson campus and a 10-bed inpatient center in Howard County; and the GBMC Foundation, which raises funds to support the organization’s mission. For more information, visit www.gbmc.org


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