THE HOLIDAYS mean festivities, family gatherings, gifts, and, of course, plenty of food. In just a week, an intake of extra 500 calories a day translates to an extra pound of body weight. But if equipped with these “survival” diet tips, fat-free holiday celebrations are as sweet as those mouth-watering hams served every noche buena.

Assoc. Prof. Zenaida Velasco of the College of Education shares some tips to stay healthy during the holidays:

1. Sit farthest from the table and get smaller plates (the appetizer plate, for instance) to help you avoid getting too much food. Eating with a fork and knife means eating less.

2. Drink a glass of water or other low-calorie beverage before eating, as this lessens appetite. Limit consumption of alcohol, which is a major source of calories. A bottle of beer contains about 145 calories, while “light” beers, 88 to 110 calories.

3. Start with healthy salads — lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes — and slow down on cream dressings like thousand island and Caesar’s. Switch to French dressing (vinegar-based). Get plenty of veggies, especially the dark greens, deep yellow, and orange.

4. Eat S-L-O-W-L-Y and chew every morsel of food. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to realize that you are no longer hungry. Remember this: “10 seconds on the lips, 10 years on the hips!”

5. For the main course, aim for lean meat and trim the fat. Choose white meat, such as fish, chicken, and shellfish over red meat. The method of cooking also matters — baked, grilled, roasted, and broiled food have less calories. Go easy on the gravy.

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6. End the meal with a fresh fruit dessert rich in fibers and phytochemicals — disease preventive chemicals such as lycopene from tomatoes and isoflavones in soy. For simple pleasures, dig in for a small slice of cake and one small scoop ice cream.

If indulging in a party is inevitable, adjust your food intake immediately the following day by trimming snacks and desserts. Think of ways to burn the calories by engaging in sports or simple exercises like bowling and brisk walking, and getting a buddy who will motivate you to stick to non-food related activi

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