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From Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, holiday gatherings are filled with tables of delicious foods. While we all look forward to splurging at these festivities, many of us tend to overindulge. In fact, most people end up gaining an extra pound or two during the holiday season.

Some mindful eating tips can help ward off this unwanted weight gain — and improve overall health and wellness. Being overweight or obese increases the likelihood that you will develop chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. Diabetes affects nearly 1 in every 10 people in the U.S.

Roger Warn, RDN, is a nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Summit Health that works with patients to help them adopt healthier eating habits. He also partners with specialty physicians like endocrinologists and cardiologists to help manage chronic conditions with a combination of diet, exercise, and medication.

“Summit Health has a wonderful team of registered dietitians who can collectively address all your nutritional needs ranging from weight management to diabetes as well as gastrointestinal and reproductive health,” says Mr. Warn. “There are also some simple strategies we can all use, particularly before the festive season begins, that will satisfy the tastebuds without moving the numbers on the scale.”  

Check out these pointers before walking into a holiday party or event. 

Be buffet savvy — look before you eat.
Make an eating plan before you grab a plate, says Mr. Warn. Take an inventory of all the delicious delights first and then pick one or two items to splurge on. Avoid foods that are fried or high in fat. Items with cheese, cream, or heavy sauces like BBQ also contain a lot of extra calories. Grilled selections are great choices, as well as foods topped with vinaigrettes or low-fat dressings.

Drink a few glasses of water.
It’s a great strategy to consume several cups of water throughout your holiday event. Drinking water will help you avoid eating too many extra calories. Carbonated beverages like seltzer or club soda, which contain gas, also help fill the stomach. “Liberal water intake will fill you up and improve your energy and focus. As a bonus: it can also make your skin look fantastic during the drier winter months,” advises Mr. Warn.

Fill your plate with water too.
Stick mostly to high water content foods like colorful fruits and low-calorie veggies that will make you feel full. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with veggies, a quarter with lean protein, and another quarter with carbs. This general guideline will give you a healthy balance of foods and keep your weight under control.

Watch your portions — and stop before you are full.
“Portion size is a personal judgment call,” explains Mr. Warn. “It is best for an individual to mindfully and slowly snack on foods that naturally contain a lot of water.” Take a break from the buffet before you feel full and allow your brain to catch up to your stomach. Another tip is to have two small plates of food instead of one big one so you can pace yourself. This will help you feel satisfied both physically and mentally.

Step away from the snacks.
Mindless eating is common, particularly when you are socializing or drinking alcohol. Simply moving into another room or choosing a seat where the food is out of reach can save you a ton of calories. When the snacks are out of sight, they are often out of mind.

Limit alcohol — or better yet, skip it entirely.
Remember alcoholic drinks contain a lot of empty calories. And the more you drink, the more you may be tempted to eat unhealthy foods. The latest dietary guidelines suggest abstaining from alcohol, but if you choose to drink, men should not have more than two drinks per day and women should limit themselves to just one glass of daily spirits. “Moderation is the safest bet,” says Mr. Warn. “You can enjoy various types of alcohol, wine, or eggnog without worrying too much about it impacting your weight as long as you keep it to a minimum.”

Have your dessert, but don’t eat two.
Holiday festivities often end with a mouth-watering selection of desserts. As with any other form of moderation, allow yourself a sweet splurge that you wouldn’t otherwise have — just limit yourself to one piece of apple pie or a pastry.

Don’t wait for the holidays — practice mindful eating now.
“Adopting this approach now will make the holidays something to celebrate because it is not only a wonderful time of year to spend with family, colleagues, and friends, but you probably won’t see the number on the scale increase,” says Mr. Warn.

Nutrition Services at Summit Health

Eating healthy reduces your risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Our team of registered dieticians and nutritionists can help you lose weight and adopt healthier eating habits. Together, they partner with you to develop an individualized treatment plan that helps you achieve your goals.