As You Bake Holiday Treats at Home...
The danger: "It's easy to think that 'tastes' are calorie-free," says Los Angeles-based dietitian Ashley Koff. But just because two spoonfuls of cookie dough fail to register emotionally doesn't mean they don't count. (In fact, they count right up to 500 calories.)
STEP 1: OPEN A WINDOW.
Nothing smells as good as the scent of cinnamon and sugar wafting through your kitchen, but allowing it to linger for hours can trigger you to eat more. Light a green-apple-scented candle (which studies have shown can reduce appetite) or crack a window to air out the tempting aroma.
STEP 2: CLEAN AS YOU GO.
Have a pan of hot, soapy water on standby and plunge batter-covered beaters and spoons into it once you're done with them. "This protects you from nibbling," says Koff. And cleanup is that much easier.
STEP 3: SAVE YOUR DOUGH.
When you're tempted by a cookie-dough-laden mixing spoon, remember this: The raw eggs in that dough may contain salmonella, a bacteria that can cause food poisoning and was the reason for the recall of more than 380 million eggs earlier this year.
At Your Family's Holiday Dinner...
The danger: Variety may be the spice of life, but it's the scourge of your scale. "The more options there are, the more we want to try," says Koert Van Ittersum, Ph.D., an associate professor of marketing at Georgia Institute of Technology.The detour:
STEP 1: B.Y.O.D.
Offer to bring a healthy dish. Your stressed-out hostess will welcome the contribution, and you'll have a safe go-to.
STEP 2: PICK A PLATE WITH PURPOSE.
Van Ittersum suggests starting your meal by loading a dinner plate with salad (dressing on the side). Then switch to a smaller salad plate for your main course (studies show we eat less from smaller dishes).
STEP 3: PRACTICE PORTION CONTROL.
"Your total amount of carbs—potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing—should be the size of your fist," says Koff. "Shaq, for example, can eat a lot more mashed potatoes than you or I can or should." The same goes for lean proteins, which should be the size and thickness of your palm (no fingers).
When You're Coming in from the Cold...
The danger: Don't kid yourself into thinking that you've burned so many extra calories keeping warm on that winter walk or sledding excursion that you need to refuel...with eggnog. "Cold weather alone does not increase your caloric needs in any significant way," says Pete McCall, a physiologist at the American Council on Exercise.
STEP 1: STAY HYDRATED.
Without sweat as a cue during cold-weather activities, you can easily dehydrate. If your body misinterprets your thirst as hunger, that Gruyere fondue will own you. Carry a water bottle and sip generously.
STEP 2: WARM UP.
Eating has a thermodynamic (heat-generating) effect, explains nutritionist Heidi Skolnik. So we often reach for food not necessarily because we're hungry, but because we're cold. After a wintry outdoor activity, bypass the kitchen and toss a log onto the fire or snuggle up in a blanket. Still hungry? See Step 3.
STEP 3: DRINK YOUR SNACK.
Fill a mug with skim or low-fat milk and a tablespoon of Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate & Cocoa, and you'll have a rich, satisfying treat for around 100 calories, says Skolnik. Or better yet, have a cup of green tea—it contains catechins, compounds that can boost calorie burn.