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A student at Weber State University eats lunch in the campus Wildcat Room. (Daniel Rubio / The Signpost)

The average person gains about one to two pounds over the holidays, according to researchers at the New England Journal of Medicine. While that may not seem alarming right off the bat, most people who gain this weight never lose it.

With the onslaught of holiday parties, family gatherings, office dinners and other holiday traditions all centered around food, it can be easy to overeat during the holidays.

“I love holiday treats, but I try to find recipes with healthy alternatives so that I don’t feel so guilty eating them,” said Taylor Moyes, a student at Weber State University.

Sarah Kiel, registered dietitian at a Harmons grocery store in Farmington, gave some helpful hints to navigate holiday eating and avoid seasonal weight gain.

Kiel spoke about the importance of portion control and reducing portion sizes to reasonable amounts, suggesting an increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed.

A common belief is that cutting calories is a good way to keep healthy during the holidays, but Kiel doesn’t agree.

“Focus on conserving fewer calories at some meals but not reducing your volume of calories across the board because that is not a sustainable way to live,” Kiel said.

It is ok to enjoy guilty pleasures during the holidays, but be mindful of what you are eating or drinking, and limit your consumption to a reasonable amount. Instead of cutting things out completely, “Eat what you love — in moderation,” said Jody Engel, nutritionist and registered dietitian at NIH, in NIH’s “Healthy Foods and Fun.”

It is important to know that even holiday weight gain can lead to a significant increase in blood pressure, which can then lead to more severe health issues.

“Death from things like heart attack are higher around the holidays because people are busy and don’t take time to take care of themselves,” said Kiel on seasonal cardiac mortality. “They eat in ways they wouldn’t eat, and some are more stressed.”

Although it’s cold outside, getting out and moving will help reduce holiday weight gain. Kiel suggested going skiing or getting a gym membership as a way to burn some of those extra calories and staying healthy.

Researchers at Cornell University found that food placement in a buffet line could prompt healthy choices.

“The first food in a buffet line is taken the most. This influence is so strong that nearly 2/3 of the individual’s plate is filled with the first 3 items they encounter.”

Placing healthier food at the beginning of the buffet can help people to make better food choices over the holidays.

If you need help making healthy choices over the holiday season, or any time of year, Harmons offers dietitian services to help guide you. It is possible to enjoy the holidays and the delicious holiday treats without overdoing it.

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