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Nutrition Tips for the Holidays

Does the word "holidays" conjure up images of cookies and pies, gorging yourself on turkey and all the trimmings, packing on the pounds? It doesn't have to!

Healthy eating can be a realistic goal during the holiday season; however, this goal requires careful planning.

Nutrition experts at Midwestern Regional Medical Center/Cancer Treatment Centers of America have proposed the following "top 10" tips for healthy, guilt-free holidays:

1. Be realistic. The average American gains 6 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Trying to lose weight during the holidays will be an uphill battle. Instead, setting your goal at maintaining your weight during the holidays will be more realistic.

2. Do not arrive at holiday parties hungry! Nine out of 10 individuals will overeat if they skip meals. Our bodies are designed to eat every four to five hours. Skipping meals to "save calories" for party eating will set you up for failure. Eat a light meal before a party and you will arrive in control of your appetite and actually eat less.

3. Make time for exercise during the holidays. Even the best-derived plans leave room for error. Exercise will help burn off some additional calories. Keep in mind, however, that you have to walk approximately 30 minutes at 4 miles per hour to burn off one small slice of pumpkin pie.

4. Limit your alcohol intake to one to two drinks. Calories from alcohol add up quickly, particularly if you are consuming mixed drinks.

5. Be a social butterfly. Holidays are a time to be sociable. Spend time enjoying the company of others. The more you talk, the less you will eat.

6. Do not wear loose-fitting clothes during the holidays.

7. Fill up on vegetables and fruits. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytochemicals, while low in calories. The fiber in these foods may help you feel full and leave less room for high-calorie, tempting treats.

8. Donate food gifts to a food pantry. Don't even tempt yourself by bringing holiday favorites home.

9. Offer to bring a dish to holiday gatherings. If you can, bring a healthy dish with you.

10. Lighten up meals that you prepare. You can try some of the following ideas:

* Make a list before grocery shopping. (And be sure you don't shop when you're hungry!)

* Serve meals on smaller plates.

* When preparing turkey, choose a plain bird, rather than a self-basting bird.

* Remove the skin on turkey before eating.

* Use a gravy cup or refrigerate the pan juices and skim the fat off the top before making gravy. (It can remove up to 56 grams of fat per cup of gravy.)

* When preparing dressing, use a little less bread and add more onions, celery, vegetables and even such fruits as cranberries and apples.

* Leave out the margarine and marshmallows when preparing yams. Instead, sweeten the dish with fruit juice, such as apple, and flavor it with cinnamon.

* When preparing mashed potatoes, use skim milk, garlic powder and a little parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.

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