PUBLISHED: 2:47 PM on Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Seasonal socials don't have to mean unwanted pounds
It's party time - the holiday office party, a friends' cookie party and the annual family holiday get-together. That's both good and bad news.

With overeating, comes weight gain, said Terri Umscheid, a registered dietician with St. Francis Health Center in Topeka. She has seen two studies on holiday weight gain. One study stated that the average person gains about one pound. The other study stated that the average person gains from five to nine pounds during the holiday season. Umscheid said one pound is more realistic.

"Weight gain isn't as significant as many people think," she said. "One pound isn't all that bad, but we don't tend to lose it."

That one-pound weight gain every year adds up, Umscheid said.

There are ways to avoid weight gain during the holidays, said Umscheid and Kim Brueggeman, a registered dietician at Stormont-Vail Health Care.

"It really boils down to calories in and calories out," Brueggeman said. "Enjoy being with family and friends and try not to focus on the food. Try to eat smaller portions. Avoid going to parties hungry. It's a good idea to eat a snack before hand. Watch out for empty calories, such as alcohol. The calories add up quickly."

Going to parties hungry can cause a lot of problems, Umscheid said.

"Don't skip (meals)," she said. "You want to make sure you get those meals in. It's well-proven that if you skip those meals, you'll end up eating more."

If a host or hostess has a buffet-style setup, don't sit or stand in the area around the buffet, Umscheid said.

"If you stand around that area, you tend to go back," she said. "Park yourself away from the hors d'oeuvres or buffet table."

When an attendee does go through the buffet line, he or she should try to choose lighter options, such as fruits and vegetables.

"Go easy on the dips, cheeses and sausages," Umscheid said. "If most items tend to be high in fat, pick two or three -- go with what you want the most, then stop.

Buffet-goers also should keep in mind that smaller portions are better -- so Umscheid said grab a dessert plate instead of a large plate.

"Try smaller portion sizes," she said. "Limit the number of times you go back."

A host or hostess should try to remember to offer lighter fare.

Recipe modifications can help, too.

For example, Umscheid said, if a lighter form of mayonnaise is used in place of regular mayonnaise in dip recipes, 800 calories are cut out of the recipe.

"Even just going down to the light makes a big difference," she said. "You can save a ton of calories. You cut fat content from 176 grams to 80."

One 8-ounce tub of regular Cool Whip has 50 grams of fat, all from saturated sources, Umscheid said.

"Using the lighter can cut 125 calories and significantly cut saturated fat," she said

When making recipes that call for creamy soups, use lower-sodium and lower-fat versions.

Using evaporated skim milk in place of regular evaporated milk in a pumpkin pie recipe can cut the calories from 480 to 300.

Activity during the holidays will help, too, Brueggeman said.

And balancing heavier eating days with lighter eating days also can help.

"Remember that this is just a few days out of the whole year that you may not be sticking to your diet," Umscheid said. "Eat lighter on days before and days following. It can all even out by doing that."