This month all of those holiday parties and sweet treats can start to widen your waistline, but don't give up hope just yet. There are ways to avoid the holiday diet pitfalls.
Registered Dietician Tammy Beasley said she never sets a goal for her clients to lose weight during the month of December, but she does try to get them to maintain.
We've selected three tips that could help you achieve dieting success this December and in the new year.
1. Forget fat free
"There are three things that affect flavor in any food. Fat, sugar, salt. So if you take one out of a product, such as salad dressing, part of that component is going to be fat to make it a salad dressing. You take that fat out, they're going to put in more sugar and or more salt," said Beasley.
Manufacturers of fat free and sugar free products often use other flavor enhancers that are just as bad for your weight.
She recommends buying 2% cheeses, reduced fat milk, and 1% cottage cheese, and avoiding the "fake" sweet treats like fat free ice cream.
"You're going to lose in the long run by trying to do the quick fix. Go for the full product, go for maybe the lower fat version, and let that fat be something that fills you up," she said.
For holiday cooking, Beasley scoffs at the thought of using fat free cheeses as an ingredient.
"Cheese is cheese because it has fat. It can have less fat, but when you take out all the fat, you're bordering on plastic territory," she said.
She has an additional tip if you're making a dish with cheese: "The sharper the cheese, the stronger the flavor, so you get away with using less," she said.
2. Take it slow
"Slow down how much you're eating. Not slow down exercise-wise, but when you're sitting down there, pay attention to how quickly you finish your meal," said Beasley.
Researchers say it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you're full. Beasley has a challenge for anyone trying to slow down their eating.
Set a timer when you sit down to a meal, and don't let yourself get up for a second helping until it goes off. She said by then, you probably won't even want to eat anymore.
"Some of the research is showing it's a 66 calorie difference if you slow down in one meal compared to those who ate at a faster rate. That doesn't sound like much, but you add that up three meals a day, throw in one or two snacks, day after day, it can make a big difference in weight maintenance."
3. Get (just enough) sleep
"There have been studies done that anyone who sleeps under six, five hours or less, what happens is it starts messing up with the hormones in our body that control our appetite," Beasley said.
However, there is also such thing as too much rest.
"Wake Forest researchers have found that sleeping too much has the same negative effect," she said. "The key is sleep six to seven. That's the magic number."
Here are some bonus Tips from Tammy Beasley, R.D.:
- At a holiday party, don't be the first in line at the buffet table. Scan the items and choose three you can't live without. Fill the rest of your plate with fruits and veggies.
- Never go to a party hungry. Don't "save your calories" all day before you go to celebrate. Eat a small meal about 30 minutes before you leave.
- Don't drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Alternate between alcoholic beverages and water to avoid consuming too many beverage calories.