16 tips on how to eat healthier during the holiday season

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You know you're going to be tempted to chow down on basically everything on the Christmas platter, and the idea of overeating has already started to give you night sweats.

Don't worry.

Here are "16 Steps to Healthy Holiday Eating," from best-selling author and health expert Dr. Dean Ornish:

1. Eat beforehand

If you don’t eat all day, you may arrive at holiday meals and parties ravenous and lose control.

2. Glom on to high-calorie foods, more fruits and veggies

Put 20 percent fewer high-calorie foods and 20 percent more fruits and vegetables on your plate. Studies show that you probably won’t notice the difference.

3. Eat healthier foods first

They will fill you up somewhat, so you’ll be less likely to overeat the more indulgent foods.

4. Choose foods that leave evidence

For example, keep the shrimp tails and chicken wing bones on your plate after you’ve eaten them. Studies show that if you have cues to see how much you’ve eaten, you’ll eat less.

5. Put no more than two or three items on your plate

Try not to put more than two or three items on your plate at one time. We eat more when food is in front of us.

6. Eat more slowly

The faster we eat, the more we eat. Sip water between bites. Holiday meals last longer than typical meals. If you wolf down your food, your plate may be clean while others are still eating, which will lead to seconds.

7. Use a smaller plate

If you have a choice.

8. Serve yourself

If you’re at someone’s home, try to serve yourself instead of allowing your relative to heap your plate full.

9.   Arrive a little late

And make a grand entrance. More of the indulgent foods will be gone by then.

10. Leave room for your favourite holiday foods

If at restaurant, ask your server not to put bread on the table beforehand. If it’s there, you’ll probably eat it.

11. Substitute cranberry sauce for gravy

Gravy's usually high in fat and calories. Cranberry sauce is nutritious and loaded with antioxidants.

12. Avoid toppings such as butter, cheese, bacon and sour cream

Especially if you eat baked potatoes and yams, avoid the highlighted toppings. If possible, substitute low-fat yogurt or nonfat sour cream.

13. Watch the alcohol

It's high in calories and slows your metabolism. Also, too much alcohol can impair judgment, so the more you drink, the more you’re likely to eat.

14. Savor the food

Close your eyes and savor the food periodically during the meal. You’ll consume fewer calories and experience more pleasure.

15. Have just a few bites of dessert

The first and last bites are always the best, anyway.

16. Take a walk after dinner

You don’t have to hike five miles. A stroll around the block is a good start. Walking not only burns calories, it also helps relieve bloating and prevent heartburn.

According to the latest statistics, Americans gain one to one-and-a-half pounds annualy during the holidays. Leading health experts believe most midlife weight gain comes from poor holiday eating habits.

For more information, and additional tips from Dr. Ornish on how to make healthy choices throughout the holiday season, go here.

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