Don't Let the Holidays Kill You: Eat Slow, Control Your Portions, Live Another Year

The chain of holidays at the end of the year is good of an excuse as any to party up and overindulge, which also means you can plan to bring on the weight gain!

Not so fast. Between the cookies, candy canes, pastries, egg nog and Yorkshire pudding, there's no question that holiday foods aren't the healthiest. But that doesn't mean you have to let Christmas kill you one artery clog at a time. Short Order caught up with a dietitian for some tips on surviving the foodpocalypse.

"It's not that we can't have the special things for the holidays, but that it has to be portioned," says Connie Badillo, a registered dietitian for Baptist Hospital of Miami.

That's easier said than done for most Americans. The month and half from Thanksgiving to New Years leaves many with as much as one pound of permanent weight gain, according to one study conducted by the National Institutes of Health.

After looking at this obesity graphic from the Centers for Disease Control, you'll think twice about shoving that piece of fruit cake in your mouth.

Chef Stuart Shaw works closely with nutritionists in training professional boxers, designing meal plans and cooking to help maintain their weight. He says the heavy starches, salty meats, sugary desserts and alcohol, combined with overeating, could be a quick recipe for bad health.

"It's always a tradition to pig out," says Shaw, "then the next step is to fall on the couch and watch football. It really wreaks havoc on our health, but on the other side of the coin many things we eat are bad for us."

Shaw compares holiday eating to a Sumo wrestler diet: eating huge portions then immediately falling asleep.

Professional dietitians, however, say holiday foods aren't hazardous to the health if enjoyed properly.

Baillo says if you eat slowly and savor the taste of your holiday meals, you can emerge mostly unscathed. "The holidays are about the family, focus on the family and not the food," says Badillo.

Here are Badillo's other tips:

Focus on special holiday foods: Stay away from foods that you can eat any of the other 364 days of the year and it's easier to reduce your portion sizes.

Eat your calories rather than drink them: As delicious as it sounds, eggnog is high in fat. Alcoholic calories convert into sugars and tend to lead to weight gain.

Be active, don't lead a sedentary lifestyle: Even though more is better, some exercise is better than none at all.

"The mindset has to be different," says Badillo. "Say that 'I'm not going to gain weight rather than lose weight.' We plan everything else about Christmas, why not plan to eat healthy?"

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