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Add Joy, Not Pounds, With Holiday Spirits

Tackle diet worries with real solutions during the holidays.
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Should You Eat Before a Holiday Event?

Try to follow your normal routine, says Pat Vasconcellos, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Eat in the morning and have snacks as usual. Don't think because you're eating dinner at 5 p.m. you should skip your snack at 3 p.m. Eating the snack will take the edge off your appetite."

She says that having food in your stomach is also important to slow the absorption of alcohol. Mattes agrees but says eating before a holiday event won't necessarily reduce your calorie intake. "If you eat a snack, the question is whether you'll continue to eat what you would have eaten had you not eaten the snack or if you'll eat less. If you eat the snack far in advance, its effect on the next eating occasion will be very minimal. If you've added an eating occasion to your day's regimen, it might be counterproductive."

Chances are you've been around this block before. You'll know if eating before a holiday event will curb your need to indulge or will only compound the problem.

Have a Holiday Game Plan

"If you have four or five parties to go to, do you have to overindulge at all of them?" asks Vasconcellos, who has a private weight management practice in Boston. "One party doesn't put you over the top, but if you go to two or three parties a week you could add 700 to 1,000 calories depending on what you drink."

Musante advises avoiding alcohol altogether. "If you've been good with your diet, a small amount of alcohol might have a greater effect. For example, on a 1,500-calorie diet, a couple of drinks … and all your best intentions go out the window."

He tells WebMD that getting through the holidays without a setback is all about empowerment. "Recognize that you've been through holidays before. Sit down and envision what you're going to encounter."

If you're going to a buffet dinner alone, first walk through the line without a plate and survey the scene. "Go off some place and think about what you can have as a structured meal. Then take the plate and execute that."

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