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Not Overeating this Holiday Season

'Tis the season. Holiday parties mean lots of temptation. The holidays do not need to mean the choice between weight gain or deprivation. Find the middle ground and enjoy your favorite holiday foods.

There is no doubt that the stress of the holidays and the availability of unhealthy food can be a challenge to our healthy eating plan. Cookies, cakes, and candy are everywhere we go. Dinner tables are filled with dishes high in sugar, fat, and carbs. By all means, enjoy! Just do so in moderation so that your waist line doesn't expand too much as you enter the New Year.

 Here are seven ideas for not overeating during the holidays.

1. Eat before you go. Headed to a holiday party? Eat a healthy meal before you go so hunger will not drive the temptation to overeat when you are at the party. Be sure to have a meal with protein (lean meats, eggs, beans) and long-acting carbs (brown rice, sweet potato, oatmeal) to fill you up. If you don't have time for a full meal, even just eating a handful of nuts before you can help you eat less while you are there.

2. Go small. Use smaller serving plates to keep portions under control. We consume an average of 92% of what we put on our plate, so it is worth paying attention to what we feed ourselves. A two inch difference in plate diameter—from 12" to 10" plates—results in 22% fewer calories being served. Assuming a typical dinner has 800 calories, a smaller plate would lead to weight loss of approximately 18 pounds per year for an average size adult. If it is a buffet and you have the choice, opt for a smaller plate to put your food on.

3. Switch it up. Eat with your non-dominant hand to slow down your eating. If you are too uncoordinated to do this successfully at the dinner table with others, just pay attention to the rate at which you are consuming food and slow it down. (Or perhaps it could be something that you get the entire table to do so you all dine slowly, with a few laughs to boot).

4. Leave it. Decide that it is okay to leave food on your plate if you are full. Believe me, I am one of those people that cleans my plate regardless of my fullness meter, but this is an important one for not overeating.

5. Wait before you get seconds. If you are still hungry after finishing your first plate of food, allow a few minutes before reaching for seconds. It takes 20 minutes for the fullness in our stomach to reach our brains which is why we can reach the point of being stuffed. Waiting before you go in for seconds may give you enough time to realize that you are not hungry anymore.

6. Stay sober. By all means, have a drink and be merry, if you choose. Just recognize that the more you drink, the more you lose your resolve to eat well. The drinks add up the calories too.

7. Eat mindfully and enjoy. Part of health is pleasure. If we deprive ourselves of our favorite foods or feel we cannot (or should not) join in with special meal sharing with our friends and family, it affects our health in other ways. Stressing about eating is counterproductive to our health. Give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday meals. Just enjoy them fully and mindfully.

The holidays do not need to mean the choice between weight gain or deprivation. Find the middle ground and enjoy your favorite foods this holiday season.

What are your tips and tricks for healthy eating during the holiday season?

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Dina Colman, MA, MBA, is a healthy living coach and writer. She has her Master’s degree in Holistic Health Education from John F. Kennedy University and her MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. She founded Four Quadrant Living—a simpler, natural, more fun way to a healthier, happier, and energetic life. Four Quadrant Living provides information and motivation for healthy living through nourishment of the four quadrants of our lives—Mind, Body, Relationships, and Environment. Dina has a private practice, working with clients to help them create health in their lives by eating well, finding the fun in exercise, reducing stress, managing relationships, and creating a healthy environment. Dina's book, "You Are Not Your DNA: 48 Simple and Natural Ways to Create Your New Health Destiny" will be published in 2013. Contact Dina at dina@fourquadrantliving.com

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