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Q&A: Obesity expert from University of Tennessee discusses holiday weight gain

Nutrition expert advises choosing small amounts of special holiday treats and filling up on healthier items.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: December 8, 2012

Over the holidays, rich foods and desserts can cause some of us to put on a few extra pounds. Michael B. Zemel, the chief science officer at NuSirt Sciences, answered a few questions about how you can combat gaining weight over the holidays while still enjoying your favorite foods.

What are some tips you have for holiday parties?

Zemel, a professor emeritus in nutrition at the University of Tennessee, said oftentimes, people figure diet and exercise are a lost cause during the holiday season.

“They figure they're all in until the holidays are over, instead of saying, ‘You know what? There are a few things I can do to make sure that I don't really gain six pounds over the holidays.'”

Family, friends and offices will throw a variety of parties this month. It's important to not show up to these parties starving, Zemel said.

Once you're at the party, engage in conversation, and when you do, don't linger around the food while you're talking. It's too tempting to snack and eat, and the reality is, it's hard to keep track of what you eat while periodically snacking.

“And it's also hard to say, ‘Well you know what? I'm just going to eat the celery slices,'” Zemel said.

What's important to keep in mind about portion control?

While at your family or friend's holiday dinner, think about the benefits of what you're putting on your plate. Proteins and cheeses are high in protein and will fill you up faster, Zemel said. Eating those first could mean you will be less likely to eat too many high-calorie foods.

“You can scan the table and figure out what that one special thing that you'd really like to have is, and go ahead and enjoy it, and then fill up the rest of your plate or the rest of your return trips with things that are a little more modest, things that are little lower in calories,” Zemel said.

This isn't to say you can't enjoy the things you love.

“Personally, I think if you want to have a piece of pie, you ought to have it, but maybe you ought to have a look at what size you have,” Zemel said.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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