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For the holidays,eat before the party, use smaller plates

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Instead of answering a viewer question this week, CNNHealth Diet & Fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis offers her thoughts on confronting the dietary temptations of the holidays.

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Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Tips for maintaining

A person gains about 2 pounds over the holidays, but those who struggle with their weight often gain 5 to 10 pounds. In my weight-loss practice, I have found that the best approach is to encourage patients to focus on maintaining their weight rather than losing weight over the holidays. Here are several suggestions to help you achieve that goal.

1. Never go to a party or dinner very hungry. Always eat a high-fiber or protein-based snack to take the edge off. Some ideas include cottage cheese and fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt with a tablespoon of chopped nuts or two tablespoons of high-fiber granola or cereal, or a bowl of minestrone. Soup is one of the best options since it is high in water, so more likely to fill you up with fewer calories. In addition, research shows that people who begin a meal with soup tend to eat fewer calories during the meal. If you are planning on drinking alcohol, include a little fat in your snack such as nuts or string cheese as this will slow the absorption of alcohol, helping you maintain better control over food choices during the course of the evening.

2. Squeeze in time for exercise or physical activity. Take the stairs at the mall or department store. Do pushups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks while watching TV. Go for a walk before or after Christmas dinner. Plan outings at the park for the family. If you don't have time to get to the gym, get a jump rope and commit to five minutes daily (everyone has five extra minutes).

3. Build a better eating environment. Use smaller plates and taller, narrower glasses to keep portion sizes under control. Fill at least half your plate with lean protein and vegetables and use the remaining half for the special, delicious, not-so-good-for-you items. Also, try to limit variety when it comes to higher-fat options, as research shows that this can lead to overeating. Choose one type of cookie instead of three. Finally, try not to waste calories on fillers such as rolls, chips, cheese and crackers that you can eat any time of the year.

4. Make trade-offs. Resolve to skip wine at one party and skip dessert at another. Have pasta or bread if that is what you are craving but limit yourself to one cocktail instead of two. Don't have an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to holiday eating. You can be social and in control. If you feel your resolve slipping, focus on how great you are going to feel in January when you have not gained weight for the first time in how many years?

5. Get rid of leftovers. If you are having a party, stock up on Tupperware and send guests home with the remaining Christmas cookies and treats. Not only will they appreciate the holiday spirit, you won't be faced with the cookie tray for days.

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