The top 10 diet strategies for the holiday season
A sugar cookie here, a glass of champers there: The holiday season is packed with festive calorie bombs. Many Americans will gain as many as five pounds over the holidays, according to The New England Journal of Medicine, but that doesn't have to be you! With these tips, you can skip your usual New Year's resolution.
Eat less now, eat more later
You can have your fruitcake—or chocolate peppermint macaron—and eat it, too, with a little planning. To give yourself leeway for holiday treats and big nights out, "cut 100 to 300 calories each day, so you have extra calories to play with," says Austin-based nutritionist Lindsey Duncan. It's as easy as omitting dressing or cheese from your salad or swapping your afternoon latte for espresso.
Wear something kind of tight
Not so tight that you can't breathe. But a body-conscious dress will get extra snug when you've eaten too much—a good reminder to chill out. And you'll look hot! "It also helps you feel good about yourself, like your body is worth protecting," says Stephen Gullo, a weight-loss expert in New York City and author of The Thin Commandments Diet (Rodale).
Ban your trigger foods
Just one Oreo cookie should satisfy your afternoon craving, no prob. But the next thing you know, you snap out of a trance to find an empty plastic sleeve scattered with crumbs. If this scenario sounds familiar, the holiday-themed versions of your favorite foods may be extra tempting (red-and-white-cream centers!). Resist. "Everyone has certain foods they can't stop eating," says nutritionist Pamela Peeke, author of The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction (Rodale). "Know what these are, and completely avoid them."
Never go hungry
Before you leave for a party, eat a high-protein snack with a little fiber and fat, which will keep your blood sugar even for longer than something carb-based. "You'll be less hungry and more able to make better choices once you get there," says Peeke, who recommends berries and cottage cheese or celery with almond butter. "They'll keep you going for hours."
Be the life of the party
Keep your mouth busy and your hands occupied—but not with food. Strike up a conversation with a new friend far, far away from the buffet table; hold a cocktail in one hand and your clutch in the other. Unless you're a circus juggler, it'll be nearly impossible to snack mindlessly.
Taste everything, finish nothing
As a grown-up, there are no prizes for cleaning your plate (besides a larger dress size). "This is the best time of year to learn the fine art of tasting," Peeke says. "When you go to parties, have a little bit of the food you love. But remember that after the third forkful, the taste is deadened anyway, and you're just exercising your mouth."
Look for the healthy stuff
Scan the table for fruits and vegetables—even if you have to eat the grapes garnishing the cheese plate. "There are generally a lot of healthy options at parties. Stay away from anything that is fried and rich desserts," Peeke says.
Make the perfect plate
When food is served in a buffet, portion sizes creep up; people tend to heap on nearly twice what they'd normally eat. Duncan recommends piling two thirds of the plate with vegetables and light protein, such as shrimp, "so there's less room for cheese, bread, and desserts."
Don't get drunk
Give yourself a two drink maximum. After that, your resolve weakens and puff pastry hors d'oeuvres become irresistible. Gullo recommends alternating wine or a cocktail with sparkling water; carbonation tricks your stomach into feeling fuller. A guide to picking your poison: A glass of Champagne is around 90 calories; wine is about 155; a vodka, gin and tonic, or a shot of Jack Daniels is 200. Consider saving calories with diet mixers: A rum and Coke has 240, while a rum and Diet Coke has about 110.