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Cheers to a lighter new year

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Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post. This week, Christine Dobmeier weighs in on healthy holidays.

Holiday season is in full force. In the grocery stores, there are large displays of chocolates in every shape and form, and at work a parade of cookies, popcorn tins and other confections arrives every day. This onslaught of goodies is happening while we are still trying to work off our Thanksgiving indulgences.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, it's easy to lose track of your health goals and see weight trend up. It may be challenging to lose weight at this time of year, but a good goal is to prevent weight gain and to go into the New Year already on a healthy path.

Don't wait for the New Year to make a resolution for health. It is easy to overindulge and tell yourself that you'll just behave better once Jan. 1 rolls around, but it is better to try to stick with healthy habits now. Try some of these tips to maintain (or improve) your health as you navigate the holiday season.

Run, Run Rudolph

Holiday season also tends to be busy, and it can be tough to fit in regular exercise. Resolve to fit in regular activity. Try rounding up friends or co-workers to join you on a walk in the evening or at lunch. If you don't have time to make it to the gym, take a few minutes and do 20 push-ups and 20 sit-ups, then do jumping jacks for a minute. Jumping rope is another quick cardio boost when you don't have time for a complete workout. Going shopping at the mall? Park farther away from the stores, so it forces you to walk more. Try to add in an extra lap, and if the mall is multi-story, take the stairs. When shopping, pack a healthy, portable snack, such as a banana and 20 almonds, so you are less likely to stop at the food court for some high-calorie fare.

Make a list (and check it twice)

One of the best ways to limit weight gain throughout the year is to plan. The holiday season is often filled with parties and events, so take a look at your week and figure how many meals you need to plan for yourself and family, then try to pick out some healthy options. If you are bringing a dish to share to a party, make it a healthy one. You'd be surprised how many people are happy when you show up with a tray of fresh fruit-ka-bobs or a lighter dip to try. A couple of great websites for meal and appetizer ideas are eatingwell.com and cookinglight.com, which offer many holiday specific ideas.

Give a gift to yourself

Make a health goal for your holiday season: Make it measurable and achievable. For instance, set a goal of getting to the gym at least 4 times a week or including at least 30 minutes of walking daily. Or, it could be avoiding snacks after 8 p.m. Keep track of how you do with your goals, and, if you meet them, treat yourself to something, whether it's a manicure, some new workout music on iTunes, or perhaps a new pair of pants once everything is on sale in January (the pants may be even a smaller size thanks to all your healthy goals).

Don't be a scrooge

After all, the holidays only roll around one time a year, so you can choose some of your favorite goodies to indulge in. The key is moderation. If your mom makes your favorite batch of cookies, enjoy two of them, but then skip the mashed potatoes at dinner. At holiday parties, survey the spread of food and pick out a few of your favorites in a small portion that you don't get to enjoy too often and then fill up on high-fiber vegetables that pack a low-calorie punch. Make sure to drink plenty of water as well to feel full and hydrated. Remember that while the holiday season is to be enjoyed to the fullest, you also want to make sure to work in some healthy steps to start 2013 on the right foot.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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