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Ah, the holidays. Cold weather. Lots of gifts. Food. Food. And more food.

Most Americans gain weight during the holiday season as a result of eating too much and exercising too little.

It’s easy to polish off a bowl of high-calorie cocktail nuts while listening to a relative drone on about some family vacation. At holiday meals, you feel you must try everything and then go back for seconds to avoid insulting your hosts. And who has the time to exercise between shopping for gifts, attending parties and watching football?

To help you avoid packing on pounds this holiday season, nutrition and dietary experts from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center have offered a few tips.

One of the important things to remember is not to skip meals, especially breakfast, said Army Lt. Col. Laurie Sweet, chief of the nutrition care division at Landstuhl.

“There may be the tendency to say, ‘You know I’m going to a big party tonight, and I know there’s going to be lots of food, so I’m not going to eat anything today so I can eat all my calories tonight,’ ” she said.

“Well, that’s not a smart thing to do because your metabolism slows down if you go for long periods of time without eating. Then when you do finally eat, you’re so hungry that you’ll eat too fast, and you’ll eat too much.”

At parties or potluck events, choose the foods you like instead of taking some of everything.

“Sometimes people think, ‘It’s Christmas. I can eat this. It’s the holidays. I can eat whatever I want,’ ” said Army Capt. Julie Hess, assistant chief of medical nutrition therapy at Landstuhl.

“It’s a whole lot easier to put on the pounds than it is to take off the pounds later.”

Alcoholic drinks can impair your judgment and lead you to eat without thinking about the consequences.

Drinking water and being properly hydrated is a good way to avoid overeating during the day. Army Col. Joanne Slyter, a clinical dietician at Landstuhl, suggests drinking a big glass of water 20 minutes before a meal.

“You’ll start getting a full sensation as you’re into the meal,” she said. “You won’t have a tendency to eat as much.”

All the talk of holiday overeating, however, shouldn’t scare you into a diet of prunes and whole-grain breads. You can eat the sweets and bad stuff, but remember to do it in moderation.

“There’s really no such thing as a ‘bad’ food that you should stay away from,” Sweet said. “It’s just how often do you have it and how much do you have.”

Keeping it light

Tips to avoid gaining weight during the holidays:Indulge in conversation rather than food.If making desserts, make cakes rather than cookies. You can’t steal part of a cake.Give away leftovers that could cause you to overeat.Plan ahead to include exercise in your busy schedule.During a party, don’t stand near the food table. Collect finger food on a plate and sit down to eat.If you want to taste a variety of foods, take small samples.Drink a large glass of water 20 minutes before a meal.Source: Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

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