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Holiday weight management tips for families

Avoid the holiday spread

Holiday celebrations offer an array of temptations for partygoers to abandon healthy nutrition habits. All those calorie-laden holiday foods pose a special challenge for the many American children and adults who are struggling with the proverbial "battle of the bulge."

Avoid the holiday spread

Plan ahead to keep off the pounds

"The key to successfully navigating the holiday season for your family," says Netty Levine, RD, a dietitian at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, "is to plan ahead by outlining a practical weight management strategy that doesn't leave you and your children feeling deprived, but will help kids and their parents to avoid weight gain during the next couple of months."

Practice portion control

The good news is that adults and children alike can enjoy the wonderful foods of the holiday season as long as they do so in moderation. "Limiting portions, making sure that children are eating nutritious meals, and bringing something healthy to a holiday party are all ways to help to prevent weight gain over the holidays," says Netty. 

Go into the holidays prepared

Instead of putting family members on a diet, practice healthy eating before the holidays begin by changing the proportions of the foods you serve. Start out by helping children divide their plates into four imaginary sections: one for fruit, one for vegetables, one for starch and one for protein. Serve low or non-fat milk and/or water with meals.

Snack healthfully

If going to a party, keep the rest of the day's food selections healthier. Prepare red, yellow, and green peppers in small strips and store in plastic snack baggies. Buy baby carrots in pre-packaged plastic bags or prepare your own to give to your kids when they want to have a snack. Before leaving for a party, offer these colorful veggies to help curb their appetites. Fill them up a little; and they will be a little less tempted to over-eat at the party.

Help your children make good choices

Allow your children one dessert per event and discuss this with them in advance. If accompanying the child to the party, supervise their choice by asking them what they really want out of what is available and reinforcing that they cannot have everything.

Do a trade-off with exercise

Eating more during the holidays can be partially off-set by a moderate and daily increase in physical exercise. Try 10 or 15-minute brisk walks twice a day with available family members. Plan active play dates instead of the movies where they would have a tendency to sit more and ask for "junk foods."

Serve diet-friendly food

If you are throwing the party, have lots of vegetables available, instead of chips. Prepare lower fat dips and offer salsa. Explain to your guests in advance your resolve to make this a healthier holiday season and ask them to keep this in mind when preparing any dish they may be bringing.

Swap out high-calorie drinks

Limit high calorie beverages such as sodas, juices, smoothies, and blended coffee drinks or skip altogether if indulging on a particular dessert. There are nearly 150 calories in one 12-ounce can of soda or juice. Smoothies and coffee drinks are often 250-500 calories, excluding the whipped cream.

Don't skip meals

Starving yourself before a party or get-together increases the odds that all will overeat when the festivities begin. It also teaches your kids a bad habit.

Choose wisely

At holiday meals, eat more of the roasted turkey since it is naturally lower in fat and calories and take less of the gravy, stuffing, and that second piece of pie. Offering alternatives of cranberry sauce, plain baked yams, and light whipped cream or fat-free frozen yogurt on pie are all ways to enjoy food while keeping calories down.

Load your guests with leftovers

If the holiday party is at your house, send some of the leftovers home with your guests.

Eat mindfully

Encourage your kids and family members to eat slowly, which will help all concerned to eat less and feel full and satisfied.

Trick your sweet tooth

When baking holiday cookies, buy smaller cookie cutters. Sample fewer cookies by munching on other "sweets" like diced apples, pears and strawberries that are set up near the cooking area. Keep some water with lemon wedges or sparkling water close by, too.

Be sensible

During the holidays, make your goal to maintain your weight -- not to lose weight. Be positive. Don't let your weight and cravings take control of you.

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