Healthy Holidays

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The most wonderful – and most tempting – time of the year is almost here.

When families and friends gather to celebrate the holidays, food is often a centerpiece. Rich casseroles, calorie-laden side dishes and decadent holiday desserts abound. One report from the New England Journal of Medicine found that on average, adults gain about one pound every year during the winter months. While that might not sound too bad, it can add up over time and, according to the study, people who gain weight during the holidays are less likely to shed pounds throughout the rest of the year. Here are five tips to get a jump start on your spring break body by avoiding holiday food pitfalls.

Don’t overeat because of stress.
End-of-semester deadlines, projects and tests are piling up, and it’s tempting to indulge in caloric comfort foods and fast food instead of making smart choices. Take frequent breaks from long periods of study and make exercise a priority to avoid “comfort eating.” It can help to slow down and focus on the foods you’re consuming insteading of taking in mindless calories while you watch TV or scroll through your phone.

Keep healthy snacks readily available.
Know you have a late-night study session coming up? Throw a piece of fruit or a granola bar in your backpack. You’ll be much less likely to be tempted by every organization’s Christmas cookie or donut study break that way.

Don’t neglect exercise.
Squeezing in a morning jog, afternoon walk, or fitness class at the local gym will keep your metabolism high and your energy up. Replace your post-Turkey Day nap with a brisk walk around the neighborhood and you’ll burn off unwanted calories and stay on track physically. Even short 10 or 15-minute sessions of exercise will help when you don’t have time for a full workout.

Be aware of portion size.
As one saying goes, “no one ever got fat off of one cookie.” Treat yourself to your favorite holiday foods, but enjoy them in moderation. Try avoiding pre-packaged sweets and only enjoy special holiday desserts. Think indulging in your mom’s famous pumpkin pie, not a bag of holiday candy from the store you could find year-round.

Don’t skip meals.
Skipping meals to “save calories” will only result in overindulging later. Eat a healthy breakfast of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal and light snacks before bigger meals. Katherine Tallmadge, author of “Diet Simple,” says “eating sensibly throughout the day will take the edge off the appetite and empower a bit of restraint.”