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Buffet Table Tactics | Winter 2005 Out Here Magazine

You can enjoy holiday food without overindulging

By Bethanne Black

Fudge. Hors d'oeuvres. Dips. Cookies. Candies. Eggnog. And more cookies. A festive holiday season is the perfect time to eat, drink, and be merry, but it's also an easy time to overindulge at parties and other celebrations.

How many of us have stood on the scale in early January, dreading the results of all those cakes, candies, and party trays?

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to enjoy the holidays without going overboard, says Debra Wein, registered dietitian and president/co-founder of The Sensible Nutrition Connection, a Boston nutrition consulting firm. "Take stock of your eating habits as the holidays begin, before eating becomes out of control," Wein says.

Try these tips to make healthy eating a priority during the holidays — so you won't dread the scale:


The holidays can be stressful, and many people overeat when they feel anxious or overwhelmed. Take note of situations and times when you find yourself eating too much. Become familiar with the factors that trigger overindulging, and you'll be able to take control and make better choices.


Rather than trying to diet during the holidays, become determined to sustain your current weight. For help, keep your refrigerator stocked with nutritious foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins Use free online software programs to track calories eaten and calories burned. One such online program can be found


If you are attending a party, visiting a friend's house, or dining at a restaurant, it's okay to splurge occasionally on foods that are high in fat and calories, but make sure these food choices don't comprise most of your caloric intake. At buffets or parties, check out all of the food offerings before making your final decision. This allows you to plan what you want to splurge on without sampling every tempting treat.


Being physically active is just as important as meeting your other holiday obligations. Make an appointment with yourself to exercise. Log the date on your daily calendar. Remember, if you must switch your "appointment," be sure to reschedule it. Track your workouts to make sure you are burning calories during this time when parties and social engagements are abundant.


Food diaries — where you write down everything that you eat and drink — tell the truth. For example, you may find that you eat all day but don't sit down for a healthy meal. Or, your food journal may reveal that you eat most of your calories after 3 p.m. with little food in the morning. Food journals help you adjust your eating habits to make healthier choices. Seeing the information in writing can be very powerful.


Plan holiday outings that focus on being physically active. Go for a long walk after Thanksgiving dinner or sign up for ice time at the local skating rink. Gather a group of friends for caroling or organize a snowball fight. The goal is to enjoy a variety of holiday traditions, other than simply cooking and eating.

Bethanne Black, of Atlanta, is a freelance journalist who specializes in health care.