'Tis the season when it's easy to nibble frequently, overeat too often and end up gaining weight.
Adults add an average of one pound between Thanksgiving and New Year's, research shows. Sedentary people actually put on 1½ pounds, while those who are more active lose 1½ pounds, the research found.
Some people gain more and that's not surprising considering how quickly the calories add up: Four ounces of eggnog; two sugar cookies and nine Hershey's kisses tally about 500 calories. Two glasses of red wine, five boiled shrimp dipped with cocktail sauce, six crackers with cheese spread and a piece of fudge are roughly 600 calories.
USA TODAY asked four nutrition and fitness experts to give us their best advice for surviving the holidays without packing on extra pounds.
James Hill, founding executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado in Denver, co-author of State of Slim: Fix Your Metabolism and Drop 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks on the Colorado Diet:
Maintaining weight during the holidays: I use two strategies. First, I make sure I get at least an hour each day of planned exercise, and I try to get people to walk with me after meals. Second, I watch portion sizes. I sample all of the treats but eat only a little of each. I love the holiday treats but know that it is the first few bites that taste best.
Advice for others: Every family has holiday food traditions. Develop some holiday physical activity traditions for your family. You can get in the habit of walking after dinner, playing a game of touch football on the lawn or going to museums or to the zoo.
Another suggestion: Involve the kids in cooking - both the traditional and the more healthy options - and let them help in designing fun physical activities for the whole family.
Registered dietitian Judith Rodriguez, chairwoman of the department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Florida and author of The Diet Selector:
Maintaining weight during the holidays: Check your weight daily or every other day to see if there is some weight creep. Take action as necessary.
Enjoying favorite foods: Scan the buffet table in advance and figure out which foods will provide you the most satisfaction so you get the biggest bang for the calories. Decide how much you can consume without overdoing it. I enjoy the appetizers and sweets so I select a few of my favorite of those but am careful not to mindlessly munch on them. Also, I am careful about what I drink. It is easy to consume extra empty calories from beverages - especially sweet and alcoholic ones. Having water with lime is a great way to save calories.
Best approach to holiday events: Remind yourself that the fun part of the party is enjoying the company and engaging in conversation, not just enjoying the food.
Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition at Atkins Nutritionals, and author of The New Atkins Made Easy:
Maintaining weight during the holidays: I do not arrive at a holiday meal famished. I eat a small low-carbohydrate meal beforehand, such as salmon and salad with an olive oil dressing, or enjoy a filling snack, like cut vegetables and guacamole dip, to stabilize my blood sugar and appetite. I also try to keep pace with my exercise routine by scheduling fitness time on my calendar, just as I would a doctor's appointment or work meeting.
Advice for others: Work out when you're feeling stressed. It will help relieve tension. Plus, studies show that people who exercise are more successful at maintaining their weight loss than people who don't. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest.
Eating three meals a day is a must. Feel free to enjoy low-carb snacks such as turkey and cheese roll ups or vegetables and hummus dip between meals. Doing so will keep you fortified and less likely to grab something off plan.
Another suggestion: Drink water. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, so staying well hydrated helps you not to overeat. Carry a water bottle with you at all times, sip from it frequently. Spice up your water by adding sliced lemons, limes or cucumbers.
Dominique Dawes, co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Olympic gold medalist and motivational speaker. She and her husband are expecting a baby girl at the end of February:
Maintaining weight during the holidays: Get outside and get active. The holidays are about spending time with your family so instead of sitting inside watching TV all day, go take a hike, a walk or organize a family flag football game. You can get a great workout in just 30 minutes.
Enjoying your favorite foods: Focus on moderation. Eat the foods that you love but avoid overdoing it. Drink water before and during your meal. That's another way to fool your body into believing you are full.
Another suggestion: If you do gain weight, don't beat yourself up about it. Don't allow extra pounds to dictate your emotions. A healthy BMI (body mass index, a number that takes into account height and weight) is important. Try to get your weight in the healthy range. Make smart choices, be physically active and embrace the body type you have been blessed with.
By Nancy Hellmich