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The Holidays…a time for celebrating, shopping, and overeating? Yes, I said overeating as it would seem that way, given the latest statistics.

  • Americans gain 1 to 1½ pounds annually during the holiday season.
  • Leading health experts believe most midlife weight gain comes from poor holiday eating habits.

To help fight holiday weight gain, best-selling author and health expert Dr. Dean Ornish created this list of 16 Steps to Healthy Holiday Eating.

  1. Eat something beforehand. If you don’t eat all day, you may arrive at holiday meals and parties ravenous and lose control.
  2. Put 20 percent fewer high-calorie foods and 20 percent more fruits and vegetables on your plate. Studies show that you probably won’t notice the difference.
  3. Eat the healthier foods first – they will fill you up somewhat, so you’ll be less likely to overeat the more indulgent foods.
  4. Choose foods that leave evidence – e.g., keep the shrimp tails and chicken wing bones on your plate after you’ve eaten them. Studies show that if you have cues to see how much you’ve eaten, you’ll eat less.
  5. Try not to put more than two or three items on your plate at one time. We eat more when food is in front of us.
  6. Eat more slowly. The faster we eat, the more we eat. Sip water between bites. Holiday meals last longer than typical meals. If you wolf down your food, your plate may be clean while others are still eating, which will lead to seconds.
  7. If you have a choice, use a smaller plate!
  8. If you’re at someone’s home, try to serve yourself instead of allowing your relative to heap your plate full.
  9. Arrive a little late and make a grand entrance. More of the indulgent foods will be gone by then.
  10. If you go to a restaurant, ask your server not to put bread on the table beforehand. If it’s there, you’ll probably eat it. Leave more room for your favorite holiday foods instead.
  11. Substitute cranberry sauce for gravy, which is usually high in fat and calories. Cranberry sauce is nutritious and loaded with antioxidants.
  12. If you eat baked potatoes and yams, avoid toppings such as butter, cheese, bacon and sour cream. If possible, substitute low-fat yogurt or nonfat sour cream.
  13. Watch the alcohol, which is high in calories and slows your metabolism. Also, too much alcohol can impair judgment, so the more you drink, the more you’re likely to eat.
  14. Close your eyes and savor the food periodically during the meal. You’ll consume fewer calories and experience more pleasure.
  15. Have just a few bites of dessert. The first and last bites are always the best, anyway.
  16. Take a walk after dinner. You don’t have to hike five miles. A stroll around the block is a good start. Walking not only burns calories, it also helps relieve bloating and prevents heartburn.

For more information and additional tips from Dr. Ornish on how to make healthy choices throughout the holiday season, visit www.marshealthyliving.com.

What tips do you have to avoid holiday weight gain?