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By Lauren Schmitt, MS, RD, CPT,

November 1, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Want to shape up for the holidays?  Lauren Schmitt, Healthy Eating and Training (, offers these helpful tips.

Healthy Habit #1: Don’t wait until the New Year.

Do not plan to start dieting in 2012. This is giving yourself permission to binge over the holidays. If you think of yourself as being 'on' or 'off' a diet, you will get into trouble. As soon as you go off, you may end up in the deep end. A taste of Aunt Nellie's pie doesn't mean you've sinned and definitely doesn't mean you may as well eat the whole thing.

Healthy Habit #2: Portion control is everything. Many people lose weight and keep it off with the simple strategy of portion control. Eliminating or even limiting certain foods is hard during the holidays, but it’s even harder on your waistline if you don’t limit. Do the next best reasonably small portions, limit the foods you know you should limit, and don't stuff yourself.

Healthy Habit #3: Choose beverages wisely. One cup of egg nog contains 343 calories and 19 grams of fat or a 16 ounce Starbuck’s Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha 440 calories and 8 grams of total fat. These drinks should be considered an indulgent dessert. Opt for low calorie or calorie free beverages instead to avoid the 1/10 of a pound that these would add to your body.

Healthy Habit #4: Don't skip meals. A common strategy during the holidays is to skip breakfast -- and lunch -- because you know a big meal is ahead. Saving up all of your calories for the day for a celebration doesn’t work. This strategy backfires, because you come to the meal starving and wind up eating way more than you ever intended.

Healthy Habit #5: Never arrive hungry. You know what foods you need to stay away from. Those foods are a lot harder to resist when you are starving and your blood sugar is low. An ounce of prevention goes a long way. A glass of tomato juice, some whole-grain crackers, a slice or two of cheese or apple slices with some peanut butter will keep your appetite at bay. Have a small snack an hour or so before the holiday dinner and watch your willpower soar.

Healthy Habit #6: Go to the buffet line with a small, lunch size plate. A full lunch size plate looks like a lot of food and psychologically feels the same way. You can always go back for seconds, or even thirds; but all of this slows down the eating process, giving you more time to feel full. And more often than not, the larger portions of food you would have eaten if they had been on your plate will wind up staying on the buffet table.

Healthy Habit #7: Bring snacks while shopping. Prowling the mall for hours leaves everyone starving and vulnerable to fast-food choices. If you come prepared to roam around with some crunchy, healthy snacks such as an apple, carrots, string cheese, nuts, trail mix, or fruit leathers you will be less likely to succumb to the call of the food court.

Healthy Habit #8: Set a good example. If you are bringing a dish to a party, bring a naturally nutritious dish or make a low-fat version so that you have a healthy option while also giving others an option to eat healthier. If you have children, do not overeat in front of them. You are their role model and if you eat in moderation, they too will follow that lead. Don't feel obligated to eat anything that you don't want to. No one is going to get upset if you don’t try their tasty treat if it is helping you meet your lifestyle goals.

Healthy Habit #9: Make sure you aren’t thirsty. Many times when we crave food, it's not really hunger that's driving the urge, it is mild dehydration. So drink a lot of water. A slice of orange, lemon, cucumber or lime will flavor the water and cut your cravings; flavored non-caloric seltzers accomplish the same thing.

Healthy Habit #10: Finish your big holiday meals within an hour of starting. The body produces a second insulin hit if it senses a lot of food coming in continuously. You can avoid that second hit (and the subsequent fat storage that it triggers) by finishing within an hour of starting. If you see something you like that you forgot to eat within the hour, that's fine; just save it for tomorrow. It'll still be there, and you won't be wearing it on your hips.

Healthy Habit #11: Begin each meal with a salad. It fills you up, provides fiber and is a wonderful alternative to bread.

Healthy Habit #12: Divide your plate into quarters. Imagine that your plate is divided into quarters, one section for protein, one for carbohydrates, one for vegetables, and one for fruit. The carb section has to include not only the starchy carbs that are staples of holiday dinners but the desserts too. So if you're going to eat dessert, adjust your portion of the other carbs accordingly. Together the 'meal' carbs and dessert carbs should make up about one-third of the holiday meal.

Healthy Habit #13: Move more. Don’t let the busy holiday schedule keep you from exercising. Walk with your family after feasts, park far away at the mall, and do sit-ups during the commercials of It’s a Wonderful Life. A great holiday gift could be a yoga, pilates or boxing class for you and a friend. Aim for 5 hours of exercise per week.

Healthy Habit #14: Plan ahead. During the holidays, try to plan around where you are going, what temptations are likely to arise and how you are going to deal with them. Decide in advance what you are going to allow yourself, but prepare for it so you don't go overboard. And, if something you planned to eat doesn’t taste that good, you do not need to finish it

Healthy Habit #15: Eat slowly. Eat slowly and savor each bite. Hormones signal the brain when you are full, but it takes about 20 minutes from start time before you feel it. Slow eating not only aids in digestion but also gives your brain a chance to know what the stomach is doing. Make the meal last by talking, putting down your fork between bites or just plain waiting, you are less likely to eat on 'automatic pilot' and more likely to realize when you have had enough.

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