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Molly Ennis, RD, LD, St. Luke's Hospital

Healthy habits for the holidays

With the holiday season upon us, healthy eating habits can seem like a daunting task for many women. Sticking to a healthy eating plan is a challenge while hosting and attending celebrations, but it isn't impossible.

Follow these tips to find ways to enjoy your holiday treats and maintain your figure:

Don't go to a party hungry. Not eating or not eating enough the day of a party will cause your metabolism to slow, trigger overeating and can lead to unwanted weight gain. Many women will "fast" during the day and splurge at night. This practice can actually lead to weight gain. Eating breakfast, lunch and a small snack on the day of the party will help ward off feelings of hunger, keep your metabolism elevated and prevent you from overindulging.

Watch portion sizes and fat intake. If you host a party, try putting a new spin on meals by using herbs, fresh veggies and other low-calorie substitutes in recipes to boost flavor but not fat. There is nothing wrong with having a glass of eggnog, a slice of pie or a scoop of your family's famous potato casserole. But, be conscious of how much you're eating. The plan is to aim for small portions. This way, you can sample all the different dishes in moderation without the guilt.

Drink moderately. Alcohol can dehydrate your body, and thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Women should try to limit their alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day. Women who drink more than that tend to experience weight gain, and calories from alcohol tend to be stored in the abdomen.

Get moving, stay positive and smile. Engaging in physical activity during the holidays will keep your mood and metabolism elevated and help ward off holiday stress. Take a brisk walk with a loved one, or pick up the pace when you shop. A woman walking at a moderately brisk pace can expect to burn 250 to 300 calories an hour.

Molly Ennis, RD, LD, is a dietitian at St. Luke's Hospital. Call 314-442-3238 or visit the Nutrition Wellness Center page.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on November 19, 2009.