Here’s some jolly good news. Research suggests that folks typically gain only about one to two pounds over the holiday season. The bad news is that it may take you as much as five months to get these extra pounds off your waist according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In this study, researchers looked at the weight fluctuations of more than 1,700 Americans over the course of a year. The results uncovered that these adults started to gain weight around Thanksgiving, and their weight peaked soon after the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. While the folks studied gained about 1.5 pounds, on average, during the holidays, they didn’t see their slimmer, pre-holiday weight until the spring, way after the winter thaw. Of course, you could be one of those unlucky folks so doesn’t lose the weight but rather, carries it over year after year, until it snowballs into a hefty mound after a decade of holiday festivities.

To avoid ringing in the New Year with more of you than you want, try these three easy strategies that can help you enjoy your holiday parties without unwanted weight gain:

Ladle Out Some Soup

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The best holiday party eating strategy starts before you leave your house. Research suggests that eating a low calorie soup prior to a meal can help reduce your hunger and appetite at the meal. Heating up a mug of a hearty vegetable soup prior to the party may help you avoid chowing down on those high calorie appetizers that typically welcome you at the door of every holiday event.

Tip: Make up a large pot of vegetable soup and ladle it into individual-size, freezer/microwave-proof containers. Stack them in the freezer and reheat in the microwave for a filling snack before heading out to every holiday party you attend.

Start With The Healthier Foods on The Holiday Buffet.

How you tackle the buffet table may help you better tackle your weight. In a study, researchers randomly assigned and allowed over 120 people to choose any food items from one of two breakfast buffets. Each buffet table contained the same foods but displayed in a different order. The first buffet started with healthier foods options such as fruit and low fat yogurt and ended with higher calorie cheesy eggs, bacon, and cinnamon rolls options. The other buffet table had the same foods but in reverse order.

The researchers found that more than 85 percent of individuals took fruit when it was the first item on the buffet table but only 54 percent took fruit when it was at the end of the buffet table. Loading up your plate with higher calorie foods will leave little room for food options, such as fruits and veggies that would be just as delicious but have a lower caloric expense.

Tip: Scout out the offerings at the buffet table before you get in line. Fill your plate with lower calorie veggies, salads, and fruit first, then add a more measured helping of the higher calorie items.

Watch the Size of Your Plate.

When it comes to plates, size matters. According to Cornell University researcher and author of Slim by Design, Brian Wansink, PhD, the size of our dinner plates have increased by 22 percent since the 1960s. This larger size dinner plate may cause you to unintentionally heap on more food than you really need to feel full. Look at these two plates that are holding the exact amount of food:

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While the portion sizes on the two plates are the same, the smaller plate provides an optical illusion of providing a more robust, satisfying meal according to Wansink. The larger plate gives the illusion that you are being short-changed so you will be more likely to go back for seconds.

Tip: To control dinner portions at holiday parties, use a smaller dessert plate as your dinner plate to give the illusion of a hefty meal, while in actuality, giving you more reasonable portions and calories.

Happy Holidays, Joan

Twitter: joansalgeblake

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