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Published on November 23, 2011

American Dietetic Association Offers Ideas for Maintaining Healthy Diet this Holiday Season

November 23, 2011

Pumpkin PieAs the holiday season reaches its stride, fresh-baked treats, office parties and big meals make this a challenging time to stay on track with healthy eating goals. The American Dietetic Association encourages everyone to be mindful of extra calories that come with holiday festivities and take the small steps that can prevent weight gain and maintain a healthy eating plan.

"Contrary to popular belief, the average holiday weight gain is about 1 to 2 pounds, but we tend to keep it on and accumulate more with each passing year," says registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Suzanne Farrell. "It's really not that hard to do when you consider it only takes an extra 250 calories a day to lead to a half-pound weight gain by the end of a week."

Maintaining a healthy diet does not mean avoiding all holiday treats, Farrell says. "Taking just a few small steps each day can keep you on track while allowing you to indulge in some of your holiday favorites."

Farrell offers the following ideas for keeping your waistline intact during the holidays:

  1. Don't arrive to a social function with a big appetite. Have a small snack beforehand to take off the edge: raw vegetables, low-fat yogurts, low-fat cheese or whole-grain crackers.
  2. Engage in daily, moderate physical activity. Two 15-minute walks each day can make a difference by burning about 100 calories. This is especially easy to do when you're holiday shopping.
  3. Alcohol contains calories. A 3-ounce vodka martini contains about 200 calories and one 5-ounce glass of wine contains about 125 calories. Alternate drinks with a glass of sparkling water, and drink in moderation. For men, that means no more than three drinks per day and no more than two drinks per day for women. One drink equals 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
  4. Keep a food record. "Nothing makes you more aware of what you are eating than writing it down," Farrell says. "One study showed that we often underestimate our daily intake by 1,000 calories."
  5. Eat breakfast. People who eat breakfast tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Don't make the mistake of "saving up" on calories because you know you have a holiday party to go to that night. Eat regularly throughout the day, about every three to five hours.
  6. Plan ahead. "Set realistic daily goals for yourself," Farrell says. "Start thinking about making healthy food choices before you even walk into the party."
  7. Don't socialize near the food table. "We tend to eat what we see the most of, and that visual cue may trigger you to keep eating even if you aren't even hungry," Farrell says.
  8. Focus on fiber. High-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in volume and satisfying but lower in calories.
  9. Practice portion control. "Eat slower and use small plates," Farrell says. "Fill up half your plate with lower-calorie items such as raw vegetables or shrimp cocktail."
  10. Guarantee a healthy choice for yourself by bringing a dish that is a part of your healthy eating plan: a vegetable tray, low-fat spinach dip or a lighter dessert.

"A healthy eating plan can include the occasional treat. So, go ahead and celebrate the season. Just remember these tips to ensure you eat right now, and all through the new year," Farrell says.

The American Dietetic Association is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the American Dietetic Association at


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