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How to avoid holiday diet and fitness traps

November 21, 2017 | Heather Shannon
family eating at thanksgiving

The holidays are full of traps that threaten to undo the healthiest diets and the best-laid plans.

Here’s how you can have fun during the holidays while ensuring your health and fitness goals stay on track.

Have a holiday party plan

A traditional holiday spread of appetizers, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and dessert can easily top 4,000 calories.

Does that mean all of it is off limits? Far from it.

Katie Rankell, program director of the UC Irvine Health Weight Management Program, says there are a few strategies you can employ to keep yourself in check:

  • Don’t skip meals — you’ll be more likely to overeat.
  • Don’t stand near the snacks or the bar.
  • Fill up your plate with the healthiest items first, then indulge in moderation.
  • Work in a workout before you party, if possible.

Moderation is especially important because overeating can tax your heart, leading to a heart attack.

Read more holiday party survival tips ›

Make smart substitutions when cooking

Every item on your holiday menu presents an opportunity to trim calories and fat.

For example, the traditional green bean casserole is loaded with heavy fats. Lighten it up by using reduced-fat mushroom soup and toasted fresh onions instead of canned, fried ones.

Or ditch the casserole entirely for healthier items such as:

Hungry for more inspiration? View all of our recipes ›

Keep up with an exercise routine

It may be chillier outside, but that’s no excuse to stop exercising altogether.

In fact, exercise can help you maintain your weight through the holidays.

What’s more, you can more or less do what you like, whether it’s walking, yoga, hiking or biking. If it’s boring or too difficult, you won’t stick with it.

To ensure you’re getting the full benefits of exercise, be sure to work in some brisk exercise for at least 150 minutes each week.

If you’re looking to start a new exercise routine but aren’t sure where to begin, follow these tips ›

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