How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Crank Your Metabolism

Even if you take small portions of everything on the table, you'll still end up with a hefty dinner. Don't deprive yourself—instead, wake up early on Thanksgiving for a quick workout.

A study from Appalachian State University found that cycling vigorously for 45 minutes may elevate your metabolism for as long as 14 hours afterward. And working out close to mealtime is even better: A 2009 study published in the journal Appetite found that feelings of hunger are diminished for 1 hour after exercise. (Get more must-have nutrition tips every week when you sign up for our FREE Belly Off! newsletter.)

Eat This: Green bean casserole (1 cup = 200 cal, 12 g fat, 600 mg sodium)

Not That: Creamed spinach (1 cup = 440 cal, 28 g fat, 880 mg sodium)

Have a Mind-Fueling Snack

Food-court fries may seem like a blissful respite from holiday shopping, but they'll only slow you down. Researchers in Switzerland found that meals consisting of mostly carbohydrates can inhibit cognitive performance and stretch out decision times.

You could waste hours wandering the mall looking for presents and still end up handing out gift cards. Plus, Kovacs says, "if you eat mostly carbs, you'll never feel full."

One reason for this: Carbohydrates are relatively ineffective at suppressing the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin, especially when compared with protein, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Do yourself a favor: Find a high-protein, low-carb snack that comes in under 400 calories, and you'll escape the mall faster. (What mall trip during December doesn't leave you pulling your hair out? Find out the 12 Best Ways to Slash Holiday Stress.)

Eat This: Auntie Anne's Cheese Pretzel Dog (370 cal, 20 g fat, 33 g carbs, 5 g sugars, 12 g protein)

Not That: Cinnabon Classic Roll (880 cal, 36 g fat, 127 g carbs, 59 g sugars, 13 g protein)

Eat a Pregame Meal

You are what you eat? A study in the journal Appetite found that unhealthy, high-fat food is viewed as more masculine, which may explain why men tend to eat poorly at parties. We also tend to eat more in situations we've defined as special occasions.

So do this: Before you leave your house, eat something to dull those urges. Kovacs recommends Greek yogurt. The protein fills your belly, and the fat can help your body handle alcohol. If you do plan to eat, be civilized about it.

"Plate your food, sit down, and pay attention," says Kovacs; otherwise you won't realize how much you're eating.

Eat This: Shrimp cocktail (6 jumbo shrimp with 2 Tbsp cocktail sauce = 60 cal, <1 g fat, 470 mg sodium)

Not That: Pigs in a blanket (3 pieces = 400 cal, 25 g fat, 850 mg sodium)

Still getting that all-you-can-eat craving? Here are 6 Ways to Beat The Buffet.

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More from Men's Health:

125 Best Foods For Men

The 2012 Men's Health Holiday Gift Guide

11 Ways to Ease a Nasty Hangover

How to Stay Thin This Holiday Season

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