Moderation is the key during holiday events, says a nutrition specialist for University Extension

The holidays — a time for parties, food and alcohol. It’s also a time for temptation when you’re trying to watch your weight. But denying yourself the foods you love usually doesn’t work.

“Moderation is the key. Eat the food that’s there, but limit your portion sizes,” said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist for University of Missouri Extension. “Just take a single bite of the high-calorie, high-fat foods you love.”

Slow and deliberate eating helps too, Roberts said. Chew your food slowly and you’ll feel full sooner. Pace yourself. Set your fork down between each bite. This puts you in control and will help you limit calories, she said.

Who counts calories at a party? Anyone trying to avoid the 5-10 pounds that many believe they gain with the holiday season.

“Research shows that we only gain about 1 pound during the holidays, but we never lose that 1 pound that we gain,” Roberts said.

Losing that pound is very difficult, Roberts said, and gaining a pound year after year adds up.

So how do you head that pound off at the pass? Roberts said adding physical activity to a party’s festivities can help a lot. A scavenger hunt or door-to-door caroling can get your partygoers up and moving. If it’s too cold to go outdoors, put on some toe-tapping music and get everyone dancing, she said.

If you’re a guest at a party, bring something low-calorie like a fruit plate. Roberts said having an alternative can help you limit the amount of rich foods you eat.

Another tip in the battle of the holiday bulge: Don’t go to the party hungry, Roberts said. Have a light meal before you head to the festivities. This will help shore-up your resolve when faced with sweet temptations.

Go easy on the alcohol. Not only is it full of empty calories, but it limits your control, making it more likely that you’ll overeat, Roberts said. Ice water or club soda are great alternatives.

Remember, parties are about more than eating. Mingle and socialize, Roberts said. If you’re not hanging around the food table, you’ll be better able to control the risk of temptation.

More information from MU Extension on avoiding holiday weight gain, go to

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