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A good time to spoil your appetite

December 20, 2006|by LYNN F. LITTLE

The holiday season brings many gifts, including visits with families, friends and special foods. For many, weight gain is also a "gift" of the holiday season.

The amount of weight gained by most adults is relatively small, but this gain is not easily reversed. Research suggests that the weight gained during the holiday season might be a factor contributing to the increase in body weight seen in many adults. We tend to hang on to those holiday pounds and then pick up a few more during the next holiday season. To help you maintain your weight during the holiday season, here are some tips:

Balance party meals with other meals. Eat small meals with fewer calories during the day, so you can enjoy the party without exceeding your entire day's calorie needs. The best way to prepare for a party or a big holiday meal is to eat. Start the day with a low-fat breakfast followed by a nutritious lunch, rather than not eating until party time when you are likely to be ravenous.

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· Consume alcohol in moderation, if at all. Alcohol offers little nutritional value and is a source of added calories.

· Control your calorie intake by choosing drinks with diet or club soda instead of juice or regular sodas. A 12-ounce can of regular soda is about 150 calories with 10 to 12 teaspoons of added sugar. Diet sodas have 0 to 2 calories, and club soda is calorie-free. You also can choose water with lemon or sparkling water as your beverage.

· Socialize away from the food table. This reduces the urge to overeat and allows one to focus on socializing with friends, family and co-workers.

· If you go to a party hungry, you will be more likely to overeat. Curb your appetite by snacking on fruit, pretzels, crackers or low-fat yogurt before you go. Once you are at the party, try not to overindulge.

· Smaller is better. When the buffet-style meals are served, make one trip and take only small amounts of the foods that you really like. Choose from the veggie tray with a small serving of dip. Choose small portions of cheeses. Take small samples of high-calorie foods, such as desserts.

· Listen to your stomach and stop eating when you are no longer hungry. Eating until one is full often results in consuming more calories than we need. Don't feel you have to eat everything.

· Remember to include some physical activity in your day. If you are like most people, you probably are less active than usual during the holiday season. Physical activity is a great way to relieve stress and boost energy levels - something we all can use during the holiday season. Take a walk. Moving for 10 minutes can help you get a healthy attitude and maintain a healthy weight.

· Trying to lose weight during the holiday season is unrealistic. Instead, focus on maintaining your weight with some of the suggestions provided.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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