#Health & Fitness

How to Avoid Holiday Diet Danger Zones

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How to Avoid Holiday Diet Danger Zones

If you want to keep your figure slender, and not Santa-esque, pay attention to these diet danger zones–tis the season.


The worst thing about the month of December isn’t that you gain tons of weight; the average American puts on only about a pound. The real problem is that it’s a black hole for your willpower. A slice of leftover pumpkin pie here, a few too many cocktails there, and your healthy intentions disappear. Research suggests that most Americans never lose that pound they gain over the holidays—which easily adds up to a 10-pound gain every ten years. 

Let us help you out with this season’s eatings. No matter what comes your way—a super-stressful day of holiday shopping or Mom’s sugar cookies—you’ll know just what to do to stay slim. 

Plan for Holiday Party Success
If you’re a sucker for chips, dips, and appetizers, follow these tips to stay in control at holiday parties. 

Guard against a buffet-table binge with a smart snack one hour before you go. “Then when you get to the party, you won’t be so hungry that you dive into the buffet,” says Keri Glassman, RD, author of The Snack Factor Diet (Crown Publishers). For serious staying power, combine fiber, protein, and fat: a mixed green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, 1 ounce of feta cheese, and light dressing, or a cup of nonfat plain yogurt with 10 almonds. 

At the party, look for these snacks, and only load up your plate once: shrimp cocktail, veggies with hummus (skip other creamy dips), olives, steamed vegetable dumplings, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and chicken skewers. 

Offer to bring your own healthy dish to share, like caprese kebabs (skewer cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and Kalamata olives on toothpicks and brush with balsamic vinegar). 

Read more at Parents.com about how to indulge yourself at parties without busting your diet. 

Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy
Christmas Day is often all about eating. “But food doesn’t have to be the center of attention,” says Marisa Moore, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokesperson in Atlanta. Create new, healthy traditions—and put the focus on family instead of food.

  • Serve a light breakfast of oatmeal and fruit salad. Your family will be so wrapped up in unwrapping gifts they won’t miss the usual spread. 
  • Or celebrate with a healthy brunch your family will love. 
  • After presents, head outside to spread some cheer. Offer to shovel your elderly neighbors’ snowy sidewalks and driveways. 


  • In the afternoon set out healthy snacks, such as trail mix (combine granola, sunflower seeds, raw almonds, and a little chopped dark chocolate) and tangerines, instead of cookies and candy. 
  • Don’t open the champagne too early in the day—save the calories for a glass of wine with dinner.
  • Have some outdoor fun before the feast: Go sledding or snowshoeing. 
  • After dinner take a walking tour of lights in your neighborhood. 


Be a Cocktail Smarty
You’ll wake up with more than just a headache if you drink too much on New Year’s Eve—you’ll take in some serious calories too.

“Swap the first cocktail for a big glass of water,” says Glassman. “And eat some food before you indulge. Consuming alcohol on an empty stomach lowers inhibitions and makes it harder to stick with smart diet choices.” 

The Best Beverage Picks:

  • White wine spritzer (wine with seltzer)—4 ounces, 40 calories
  • Rum and Diet Cola—12 ounces, 80 calories
  • White Wine—4 ounces, 96 calories
  • Light Beer—12 ounces, 104 calories
  • Vodka/gin Martini—2 ounces, 119 calories

The Diet Disasters:

  • Margarita—6 ounces, 407 calories
  • Rum and regular cola—12 ounces, 369 calories
  • Pina colada—8 ounces, 312 calories
  • Mai Tai—5 ounces, 306 calories
  • Mudslide—12 ounces, 820 calories

 By Brooke Benjamin Originally published in the December 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.

 Related Stories:
The Busy Families’ Guide to Healthy Eating
Ten Steps to a Less Stressful Holiday