Expert tips on avoiding extra pounds during holidays

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Here are some more tips for avoiding — or at least minimizing — holiday weight gain, provided by Collins, Newman, Holzman and Sherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training in Vancouver.

Attitude is everything. Adopt the mind-set that weight gain is not inevitable over the holidays. Weigh yourself now to establish a pre-holiday weight, and set a goal to maintain or lose weight over the holidays.

Plan your eating and exercise each day, especially on challenging days. Although you may deviate somewhat from your plan, your behaviors will be more in line with your goals than if you didn't make a plan at all.

Fill up on low-calorie, high-volume foods such as non-starchy vegetables and fruit. At least half of your meals should be vegetables or fruits, and your starch and protein portions should be side-dish sized.

Watch out for high-calorie drinks. Eggnog and seasonal latte and coffee drinks can pack more than 300 calories per serving. Add mint leaves to your water and use frozen cranberries instead of ice cubes for a low-calorie festive drink.

Start a new, active Thanksgiving tradition. Before starting dinner preparations, go for a family bike ride, take a walk or play football. Spend 45 to 90 minutes exercising to counter the extra calories at dinner time.

Surround yourself with positive foods. Replace the bowl of Christmas candy with a bowl of Satsuma oranges or other fruits or veggies. Keep the healthy foods visible and put covers over the treats.

Be as active as possible. Park farther away in parking lots and take the stairs instead of the escalator. Plan fun, active winter outings, such as snowshoeing or skiing.

Eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast often leads to overeating at dinner. Even a light breakfast can help curb your appetite.

Limit the desserts. Research has shown if you're presented with several different foods, you'll want more of each. "You're more likely to sample everything," Newman said. Instead, assign one person to bring the dessert.

Speaking of limited desserts, avoid cookie exchanges. If you like the social aspect, try a soup party instead. Bring your crockpot, to-go containers and recipes to share.

Limit snacking at work. Cookies, candies and potluck dishes flood workplaces during the holidays. Setting a limit for how often and how much you snack at work can prevent over-indulging.

Choose your plates wisely, literally. Some plates are as big as 16 inches wide. Smaller plates fit less food and, in turn, keep calories down. But only fill one plate; don't go back for seconds or thirds.

Share leftovers. Sending leftovers home with guests helps reduce the amount of extra food in your fridge. You can't eat what you don't have.

— Marissa Harshman

Gobble, gobble.

The holidays are here, and the Thanksgiving turkeys aren't the only ones gobbling.

Research has shown Americans gain about a pound during the winter holiday season. While that may not seem like much, those pounds accumulate over the years, according to a 2000 article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

And most people, according to the article, don't ever lose that pound of weight they put on during the six-week holiday stretch.

Avoiding the extra holiday pounds doesn't have to mean missing out on holiday traditions and treats. The key is being mindful of what you're eating, said Jendy Newman, a registered dietitian at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

"I still make some really high-calorie cookies," she said, "but I only make one kind, and I freeze half the batter."

Mindful eating is also important when attending holiday parties, Newman said. Try to pick lean meat, fruits and vegetables and decide on just one treat for dessert, she said.

"Think about what you really want," Newman said. "Decide what's important."

Keeping a food diary can also help with mindful eating. Cellphone apps make food diaries easy to keep and full of useful nutrition information, said Dr. Jessica Holzman, a family medicine physician at The Vancouver Clinic.

"Really track your calories," she said. "It's simple. It's just an in-and-out equation."

The average person needs 1,600 to 2,200 calories each day. Consuming more means extra pounds, Holzman said.

One pound of body weight is equal to about 3,600 calories. Eating an extra treat every day could easily add up to a pound in one week, she said.

If you are going to overindulge on one tradition holiday dish, turkey is the best option, said Chris Collins, registered dietitian at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Turkey is a low-fat, low-calorie protein. The protein slows the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps to control blood sugar, she said.

Collins does offer one warning, however.

"Don't overindulge on the gravy," she said. "It's high in saturated fat, which is bad for the heart. Choose an extra helping of cranberry relish instead."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.