Question: I socialize a lot over the holidays. How do I avoid gaining weight, as there is so much to tempt me and I always regret it.

Answer: Starting in October with Halloween candy and lasting until the New Year with Thanksgiving and Christmas in between, food seems to be everywhere and can be a challenging time for people who find it hard to resist all the seasonal goodies.

People tend to over-indulge, and it’s estimated the average person consumes around 3,000 calories on a special day. For many people, that can be two days worth of calories in one. The extra fuel comes from chips and dips, alcoholic drinks, fancy hot drinks and lattes, cookies, fudge and deserts laden with fat and sugar (a little mouth watering here).

So let’s think this out ahead of time, have a game plan and stick to it. Acknowledge that some forms of eating are more hazardous than others, namely the potluck.

For the Potluck, or buffet, practice the fly-by method. This involves walking the table first without a plate, seeing what’s on offer and then picking four items. Grab a small plate, divide it into four sections and then select four food items. Make sure at least one choice is a vegetable and one is a good protein source, and try to avoid creamy sauces. This enables you to really evaluate what you are going to eat instead of piling your plate high with some of everything.

Develop a plan for eating out. Going online and reviewing the restaurant menu beforehand can help you make healthier choices. Being hungry in a restaurant, with wonderful aromas and delicious sounding morsels on the menu, is never a good thing for those watching their calories. If possible have a light snack before you go out, for example a cup of broth, or apple slices and peanut butter; a little something to take the edge off your appetite provides more self control.

Holiday treats seem to infiltrate the work place at this time of year. Chewing gum, sucking strong mints, or sipping herbal teas can help distract you, and make sweet things taste a little off (well, in theory). Hydration is also important. We often mistake thirst for hunger and worry more about hydration in the hot summer months, but hot stuffy offices and homes can also be dehydrating.

Remember to be as physically active as you are able, not only to keep the calories in check, but also to help reduce holiday stress, which can lead to overeating of those sugar-laden snacks. Exercise can boost your immune system, which is also important this time of year. Daily walks are great, followed by a juicy fresh orange to top up your vitamin C.

Revamping recipes to trim the calories is an easy fix to reduce the guilt and the energy load while still enjoying the traditional holiday favorites. Try eliminating a starchy dish and replace with roasted vegetables. Hearty bean and vegetable soups can be filling and low calorie. Try and leave the meal feeling as if you could eat a little more; remember the only thing stuffed at the table should be the turkey.

There are numerous websites that offer recipe modifications to reduce the fat or sugar content of a recipe. Check out or www. for ideas.

Bottom Line: Family traditions, special dishes and treats can be enjoyed in moderation. Having a game plan, portion control and recipe modification can help reduce the caloric burden and the guilt.

Ally Gottfried is a registered dietitian at the Community Cancer Center in Roseburg. You can send her questions at

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