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How to cut holiday calories

Focused on Health - December 2013

By Adelina Espat

Holiday food temptation is everywhere. It’s at the office, the homes of family and friends, and possibly even in your own home. holiday food

But don’t let holiday eating spiral out of control. “Maintaining a healthy weight plays a big part in preventing cancer,” says Sally Scroggs, M.S., R.D., L.D., health education manager at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center.

Scroggs shares the perfect plan to help you avoid those extra holiday pounds, while still indulging your favorite holiday treats.

Month-long strategy: decrease calories, increase exercise

Save extra calories for the holiday foods you enjoy most. Try these quick, calorie-reducing tricks at each meal so that you save some extra calories for your favorite treats. holiday treats

  • Eat lots of fruits or veggies.
  • Eat less meat and high-fat side dishes.
  • Drink water and avoid sugary drinks.
  • Skip dessert.

Burn extra calories. Do something every day to get your heart pumping. If you’re already on an exercise plan, add an extra 10 to 15 minutes to each workout. If you don’t exercise regularly, try adding extra activity to your day.

Here are some easy ways to get moving.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park at the far end of every parking lot.
  • Walk around the mall a couple of times before you start your holiday shopping.
  • Do some holiday house cleaning.

Encourage an office holiday food policy. Set up some ground rules for everyone to follow. Here are some good ones.

  • Ban holiday leftovers – don’t let your office become a dumping ground for unwanted food.
  • Encourage employees to bring healthy options to holiday gatherings.

READ ALSO: Got leftovers? Avoid holiday weight gain

Day-long strategy: portion control

drink water

You may be worried that an upcoming holiday gathering will turn into an all-out eating frenzy. Remind yourself that it’s okay to savor the season’s sumptuous delights as long as you eat in moderation.

“An important part of maintaining a healthy weight is understanding the rules of portion control,” Scroggs says. “On a special occasion, eat whatever you like – just eat less of it.”

Scroggs also suggests this game plan for the day of your holiday event.

  1. Get up early and exercise. It’ll make you feel good and remind you of all the work you’ve done to stay in control the entire month. Even better, several studies show that exercise may help you control your appetite so that you eat just enough to closely match your actual calorie needs.
  2. Drink a glass of water before sitting down at the holiday table. You’ve heard it before, and it’s definitely true. Drinking a glass of water before your meal tricks your stomach into thinking it’s full. To make this tip work, try to drink at least eight to 12 ounces.   
  3. Pay attention to your taste buds. Studies on “taste-specific satiety” show that the first few bites of food taste the best because our taste buds are chemical sensors that tire quickly. The more bites you eat, the lesser the taste experience. So, enjoy a few bites from every dish, and you’ll savor the best part of the holiday meal.
  4. Organize an after-meal activity. Get your family or friends to play a game of football or soccer. You won’t be the only one to benefit from some post-meal exercise. 

You’ve made a plan – now stick to it. Follow this strategy, and you’ll be ready to take on your holiday hunger.

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center