Enjoy holiday cheer without the weight gain

If you’re having problems losing excess pounds or maintaining your ideal weight, expect an uphill battle at the end of the year. The holiday season brings a variety of social gatherings, from office parties to family get-togethers. These events are often celebrated with lots of food accompanied by sugary or alcoholic drinks that are difficult to resist.

Instead of acting like the Grinch and skipping the festivities, consider some of the following tips to ensure you stay healthy without depriving yourself of some well-deserved holiday cheer.

If you get invited to a dinner party, don’t panic. There’s no reason why your diet should get ruined just because you help yourself to some special treats. Keep these tips in mind:

Stick to your regular schedule. Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If the meal is scheduled to be served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served.

Outsmart the buffet. Assemble a small plate of the foods you like best, then move away from the buffet table.

Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.

Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full.

Avoid or limit alcohol. If you do have an alcoholic drink, have it with food. Alcohol can lower blood sugar and interact with diabetes medicines.

Stay active. If overindulging is inevitable, make sure to stay active even in less-than-ideal weather conditions. Enjoy some winter sports for a change of pace or get in a quick walk or workout before you head to the next party.

Catch some zzzs. Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. Sleep loss can make it harder to control your blood sugar. And when you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.

nAdopt a healthy weight program. To compensate for caloric surplus during celebrations, supplement your exercise with a meal replacement program that’s high in protein and fiber and low in sugar. Having a meal replacement shake before a party offers a great way to curb those cravings.

If you intend to serve a holiday spread yourself, you should also be considerate of guests who’re trying to stay fit. You can prepare a healthy and delicious feast without making it unappealing. Here are some tips:

Make your meals colorful. Do you decorate for the holidays with a lot of color? Treat your dinner table the same way. Fruits and vegetables add flavor, color and nutrients to holiday favorites. They also help you feel fuller longer so you can avoid the temptation to overeat.

Learn the art of substitution. Find out where excess calories, sodium, saturated fat and added sugars hide in traditional holiday foods and beverages and search for healthier alternative ingredients. Substitute applesauce for half the oil required in cake and brownie recipes to minimize calories without losing flavor or texture. Select whole wheat flour over all-purpose flour to increase fiber. Try fresh herbs and spices instead of salt and salt-based herbs to reduce sodium content and add new flavors. Use fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream to cut down on calories and saturated fat.

Use smaller plates and tall, skinny glasses. In a study conducted at the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, even nutrition experts served themselves 31 percent more ice cream when using oversize bowls compared with smaller bowls. Manage portion sizes for your guests by simply choosing the right tableware.

Choose high-calorie dishes wisely. Instead of wasting calories on foods you can have at any time of the year, pick items that are truly special and unique to the season, like your grandmother’s candied yams or daughter’s first batch of Christmas cookies.

Using all these suggestions, you can attend or host a fun and filling get-together while still maintaining a healthy diet.