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How to Fast-Track Your Holiday Diet

For some, packing on the pounds during the holidays is a tradition, but not a healthy one.

So how can you make your diet party-proof this holiday season?

Dr. Jennifer Ashton shared the tips below so you can eat, drink and still shrink!

Special Section: Dr. Jennifer Ashton
Video Series: Dr. Ashton's Health and Wellness

Drink Water
Yes, it's not just an old wives tale. A recent study showed that drinking water before a meal can reduce calorie intake. Something to keep in mind especially at the holiday buffet table. One interesting finding in one of the recent studies is that the water effect works best in people over 35. People often mistake thirst for hunger, so next time you are reaching for a snack, grab some water first. The thinking is that water will make you feel fuller and so you will eat less. Also, if you sip water during the meal, you may fill up faster.

This is one of my mantras. Think before you drink -- that includes soda and particularly at holiday time -- alcohol. Soda is a major source of empty calories. You end up drinking your calories and still eating as much food. Also, go easy on the alcohol. Remember, one 12-ounce beer has 150 calories, as does a six-ounce glass of wine. Mixed drinks and creamy cocktails will cost you more than 400 calories. You save the calories by cutting down on the drinks and splurge on more satisfying food on your plate. So to avoid extra, wasted calories try to avoid soda and alcohol, and as we just mentioned, to stay fuller, longer, try to stick with water.

Research suggests that protein prolongs the feeling of fullness better than carbohydrates or fats. A study out just last week in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that a diet higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates helped people lose more weight and keep it off longer. You only have to increase it a little, don't go overboard or you will eat too many calories. The rule of thumb is protein should be no bigger than your palm or a deck of cards. But you can add more protein to each meal, even at that holiday spreads. Go for lean protein like turkey or chicken, fish, low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, beans, soy and even eggs a couple of times a week.

Just remember: Size Does Matter!!! The larger the portion, the more calories you are eating, even if it fits all on one plate. One trick is to get a smaller plate. Studies have shown if you eat off a smaller plate, you will actually eat less. If you are out to dinner, or at a holiday buffet, follow the "one-third" rule. Reduce temptation, by setting aside 1/3 of your meal and ask for a doggie bag. At the buffet table, serve yourself 1/3 less. This simple tactic could save you 500 calories a day. Also, learn how to measure. It's easy to misjudge portion sizes. Pull out a tablespoon for salad dressing or measure out a cup and see how much that really is.

Actually controlled splurging can increase your chances of keeping your waistline. The key is to splurge in a controlled way so you don't feel deprived and then careen out of control. When you do decide to treat yourself, pick the tastiest, best version of whatever it is, say chocolate. Plan it ahead, and don't waste your calories on anything less than your favorite high calorie food. Savor it, enjoy it, feel satisfied, and then you can go back to your sensible eating plan.

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