Battle the Bulge: The Buffet May Look Great, But Don't Pack on Weight

Don't go crazy at the buffet, and watch your alcohol intake.

BySUZAN CLARKE via via logo
November 25, 2009, 5:47 AM

Dec. 13, 2010 — -- Face it, it's hard to stick to a diet during the holidays. The loaded buffet tables at dinners, parties and get-togethers provide too many temptations.

One bite leads to another and before you know it, you've gained weight.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, noted cardiologist and talk show host, visited "Good Morning America" to talk about the best ways to avoid holiday weight gain.

Oz said most Americans gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. More than half will put on two pounds and 10 percent will put on five pounds or more. Most people generally don't lose the weight they gain, he said.

He pointed out that some of the meals people eat during the holidays add up to 2,000 calories or more, so someone could actually put on a pound a day without realizing it.

Oz offered the following tricks to help people avoid the holiday bulge:

Oz always recommends that people keep track of what they eat, but said it was especially important at this time of year when people may be surrounded by temptations. A bite here and a taste there will add up, so document everything -- even if it's a spoonful of pudding or a single chocolate chip. This will help you think about what you're eating.

You should also make a date with your scale twice a week. Oz said he usually recommends that people weigh in once a week, but said people need to be more diligent over the holidays. Early detection of creeping weight gain can allow you to react quickly by throwing in an extra workout or passing on that second helping at your next meal.

Those buffets and appetizer trays present a tempting trap.

Oz recommends that you snack before you arrive at the party. That way, you'll be less likely to overindulge on those tempting little calorie-laden treats. His favorite snack is a small bag of nuts and low-fat string cheese. The nuts and cheese are high in protein, so they'll keep you filled well through the end of the party.

Avoid Homemade

If you're asked to bring a dessert to a party, Oz recommended that you buy something at your local bakery rather than baking it yourself.

He reasoned that if you baked it yourself the night before, you may be too tempted to sneak bites of the treat, but if you buy it on the way to the party, you won't have had that opportunity and you'll arrive with a much fresher dessert.

Fancy cocktails of any kind tend to be bad for your health, and holiday drinks are the worst of them all, Oz said. Eggnog, the most popular, has a whopping 450 calories per glass. That's the equivalent of nearly one full meal.

You can certainly indulge in one or two drinks but make sure they're healthy options, he said. He recommended that you stick to 100-calorie drinks. Any hard alcohol on the rocks or mixed with club soda will likely come in at under 100 calories, as will most light beers or a glass of wine, he added.

Even better, make a wine spritzer using half wine and half soda. That way, your 100 calories will last through two drinks.

Bear in mind that alcohol itself not only adds calories, but it lowers your inhibitions, making it more likely that you will reach for those diet-destroying buffet treats as the night goes on.

Alternate alcoholic beverages with a glass of water in order to remain hydrated, stave off hangovers and keep calories in check, he added.

I Broke All the Rules. Now What?

OK, so you over-ate. All is not lost. If you've had too much dinner, or polished off a plate of cookies, your diet isn't automatically ruined, Oz said.

What you should do is get back on the right track the very next day, and Oz has a simple rule: If you eat more, exercise more in order to compensate.

It's a sure-fire way to protect yourself from the dreaded holiday weight gain. If you're eating more, you must exercise more. Try to get an extra 20 minutes of exercise every day, he advised. The more you move, the more you'll lose.

Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" website.

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