Tips for dinner and 10 quick and healthy recipes

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The 10 best diet tips for the holidays of all time

The experts offer their best advice on how to handle the temptations of the holiday diet.

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD / LD
Weight Loss Clinic WebMD – Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

The holidays bring together family and friends to celebrate traditions and spread encouragement. They also provide many opportunities to socialize, eat and drink. Even the most disciplined people struggle with temptation during the holiday season.

To navigate party landmines with your healthy diet intact, you need a strategy. Experts agree: having a plan in place will help you manage night after night eating and drinking.

"Think of your appetite as an expense account, and find out how much you want to spend on beverages, snacks, main courses and desserts," advises Michelle May, MD, author of I'm starving? What to do when diets do not work. She suggests giving herself permission to enjoy her favorite foods, in sensitive portions.

To help you survive seasonal holidays without spending a lot of money, WebMD consulted diet gurus across the country for their best vacations. diet tips. Here are his 10 best recommendations:

1. Cut out the trimmings. Go out and cover the aisles with holly branches, glitter and lights, but when it comes to Christmas food, place accessories with care. To save calories, be easy when adding nuts, cheese, cream sauces, salsa, butter and whipped cream, additions that do not add much to the food, but can add a lot to your waist. Cut out the calories where you can so that you leave the party feeling satisfied, but not full, recommends Carolyn O'Neil, MRS, RD, author of The plate of healthy eating and being fabulous.

2. Wear comfortable clothes and keep a busy hand. When you wear a tight-fitting outfit, you are probably too busy holding your stomach to overeat. While standing around looking at your formal clothes, take a drink with your dominant hand so that it is not so easy to grab the food, advises obesity expert Cathy Nonas, MS, RD.

3. Chewing gum. When you do not want to eat, put a chewing gum without sugar in your mouth. This works well when you're cooking or when you try not to immerse yourself in the buffet, says Nonas.

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4. Being a food snob. If you do not like it, do not eat it, says American Dietetic Association spokesperson Melinda Johnson, MS, RD. Scan the buffet for food that you really appreciate and skip the daily dishes that are available throughout the year. And do not think it's your responsibility to try everything on offer at the buffet. Go ahead and enjoy your personal holiday favorites, then find a seat and, slowly and consciously, savor each bite.

5. Do not skip meals. Always eat normally on the day of a party. "People who skip meals to save calories tend to overeat everything that is in sight once they get there," says Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, author of Simple diet. "Eating sensibly throughout the day will relieve your appetite and give you some moderation." Start with a nutritious breakfast, eat a light lunch and then a small snack or salad shortly before the event.

6. Take a look. The first is the first. When you arrive at the party, drink some sparkling water and wait at least 30 minutes before eating. This will give you time to relax, feel comfortable in your surroundings and examine your food options at the buffet before diving, says Tallmadge. A buffet is an invitation to eat as much as you can, and unless you examine it carefully and make wise decisions, you are likely to overeat.

7. Add fun and games. Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, coauthor of Your diet is driving me crazy, proposes to remove the focus of the meal and make family and friends more active during the Christmas holidays. Think of horseshoes, badminton, sledding, ice skating or building snowmen. Inside, try an animated game of charades, or hire an instructional dance video followed by a dance. "The best parties include dancing, so why not dance after eating a new Christmas tradition for a great form of fun and recreation?" Asks David Katz, MD, MPH, author of The taste point diet.

8. Alternating alcohol with non-alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverages are loaded with calories, especially the favorites of holidays such as eggnog. "Cut your alcohol calories in half by alternating water or alcohol between alcoholic beverages," advises Katz.

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9. Skip the appetizers. "Avoid the snacks instead of chewing them," says Katz. If you need a bit of bite before the meal, buy vegetables, fruits, salsa or a handful of nuts.

10. Limit the variety. Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Eat without thinking, suggests putting only two items on your plate when you go to the food table. Go back as many times as you want, but only take two items at a time. "The variety stimulates the appetite, and if you limit your options to just a few items and stick with them, it will be easier to control than eating a little bit of 20 different dishes," agrees Katz.

The holidays are much more than food and drinks. They are a moment to enjoy the traditions of the season and enjoy the company of family and friends. If you keep the focus on the spirit of the season and follow the advice of our diet experts, you will most likely spend your vacation without gaining a pound.

And if you make a splurge, do not punish yourself, experts say. Just go back to normal eating and exercise and try to do a better job at the next party.

Published on December 1, 2006.

SOURCES: Michelle May, MD, author, I'm starving? What to do when diets do not work. Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RD, author, The plate in healthy and be fabulous. Cathy Nonas, MS, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA); director, diabetes and obesity programs, North General Hospital, New York. Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, spokesperson, ADA. Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, spokesperson, ADA; Author, Simple diet. Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, spokesperson, ADA; co-author, Your diet is driving me crazy. David Katz, MD, MPH, associate professor, School of Public Health, Yale University; Author, The taste point diet. Brian Wansink, PhD, author, Eat without thinking, professor and director, Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, New York.

© 2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


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