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Add Joy, Not Pounds, With Holiday Spirits

Tackle diet worries with real solutions during the holidays.

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."

If you're with a supportive friend, try this approach: "Say 'I'll prepare your plate, and you prepare mine.' Then sit down and eat that meal, and spend the rest of the evening with sparkling water."

Then there are the family get-togethers where a relative says, "Come on, it's the holidays. Why not have another cup of eggnog?"

Musante says, "You have work to do to get family members on your side."

Mattes recommends two alternative approaches to managing drinking and eating behaviors. "Continue to drink what you would drink, but purposely watch what you eat, and compensate for those calories by eating less of other things. It will have to be a conscious effort because the beverages don't lead to a clear satiety signal that would cause you to spontaneously stop eating."

The alternative is to drink noncaloric beverages, such as water, diet sodas, coffee, or tea. "It's not fluid per se that promotes weight gain," says Mattes. "It's energy-yielding fluids that promote weight gain. We have to stay hydrated, but make a good choice."

Here are some tips for limiting alcohol calories during holiday festivities:

  • Drink water. "Alcohol is a diuretic," Vasconcellos tells WebMD. "When you get thirsty and you're inclined to have another drink, make it water instead."
  • Stretch your drinks. Add sparkling water or ice cubes, and nurse a drink all night.
  • For mixed drinks, use diet soda, low-calorie fruit juice, or seltzer.
  • Choose lower-calorie drinks, such as dry wine, instead of eggnog.
  • Have the bartender mix a skinny version of a favorite, like the White Russian. Mix 1.5 ounces each of Kahlua and vodka with 2 ounces of soymilk for a total of 298 calories compared with 508 calories when made with cream. Make it with nonfat milk for a total of 251 calories.
  • Drink coffee. Coffee is fashionable, and the holiday season features interesting flavors like eggnog.
  • Be a designated driver. Your friends will be grateful -- and safe.

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