Healthy Living: Tips for enjoying a healthier holiday season

On average, Americans gain approximately one to two pounds during the holiday season.

This isn't dramatic, but research shows it tends to stick and accumulate over the years. With just a few strategies, you can avoid holiday weight gain while still enjoying friends, family and the holiday feast! Avoid skipping meals Skipping meals often results in a sluggish metabolism, increased hunger, and overeating later. It is especially important to eat breakfast. Research shows that people who eat breakfast consume fewer calories during the day. Try to include all food groups but especially high fiber whole grains, fruits, and protein. Start with veggies Try filling half your plate with lower-calorie party foods like fruits and vegetables. Research shows eating a salad before your meal can help you eat fewer calories overall. Bring a veggie tray or fruit salad to your holiday party. Don't forget that even though a food is considered "healthy", like sweet potatoes or cranberries, they still contain calories and portions should be controlled. Healthy Substitutions You can substitute more nutritious items to make your recipes a little healthier, such as chicken broth instead of butter in mashed potatoes, or applesauce instead of oil in baked goods. These substitutions not only boost the nutrition profile of the dish, but may also decrease calories, fat, and sodium. Enjoy in Moderation For those special holiday dishes and treats, start by making just one trip to the buffet line and choose the foods you really want to eat. Remember these everyday objects when portioning food (see display). Use a smaller plate (9 inches) to trick the brain into thinking portion sizes are bigger than they actually are. Wait at least 10 minutes after you are finished eating to go back for seconds - it takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is full. Try to stay in a room away from the food and focus on the conversation and party atmosphere. Be active Activity helps to burn extra calories eaten during the day, so they don't contribute to weight gain. There are small things you can do to remain active - just 10 minutes of activity each day makes a difference. If you are at a party, try to stand while mingling with guests to burn more calories. Go on a walk after dinner or engage in a game of touch football or charades. Help clean up after the meal. Park far away and take the stairs. Participate in a local race or event.