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Stay Healthy During the Holiday Season

Learn how to avoid holiday weight gain and stay fit.

Remember that old adage about everything good being illegal or fattening? That seems true for the holidays. At least that's what bulging waistlines after the holiday season say. Here are tips to indulge without the guilty pounds weighing you down.

The holiday season means family gatherings; family-style dinners, complete with super-sized portions; endless rounds of deep fried munchies and chocolates; and never-empty glasses of alcohol.

It's also that time of the year when people tend to pack on the pounds from the holiday revelry. Registered dietician, Marie Feldman, from the Medical Group of Encino on Ventura Boulevard, says post the holiday season, she sees about a 10 to 15 percent growth in patients who want to work on losing excess weight.

"Alcohol intake and party food--where everything from appetizers to desserts, is served in bite-sized portions—makes it easy to over-indulge," said Feldman, who blogs about healthy recipes on enourishment.blogspot.com.

"People don't think they're eating too much because the portions are little, but they can add up easily, especially in a social setting where you are expected to keep eating while entertaining or talking," she added.

The frequency of being outside a regular diet can also contribute inches to your waistline. People generally tend to eat out or at parties, or to eat baked treats more often than they do on other days, and that adds up calories too. Feldman advises on keeping a balanced perspective.

"If you are planning to go out to a party, eat light before and after that," she said. "This will balance out your calorie intake for the day."

In Encino, California Chicken Café offers several healthy options in their menu. Their "Extremely Healthy Eating" guide has tips on ordering delicious food that won't wreak havoc on the waistline. The California Wok on Ventura Boulevard has steamed options, and a whole list of low-carb entrees. Gelson's Market on Ventura Boulevard is pricey, but has a nutritious salad bar.

Feldman also recommends having a good breakfast—with proteins and whole grains—because that sets the pace for the day. You could try the Nuts "n" Berries Café in Encino, which has healthy options such as organic granola and fruit plates.

"Don't drink too much alcohol, and control your potions," said Feldman. "Having a little bit of everything is good. Have small portions of fried fattening food and desserts and have generous portions of salads, veggies and low fat dip and fruit."

Drinking no-calorie fluids like water and tea is also a good idea. The Grounded Café and Coral Tree Café in Encino are good options if you're craving a cuppa.

However, if you do over-indulge one night, you should not take it as a free reign to continue that for days on end. Getting enough exercise is another key to keeping off the holiday pounds.

"Get back on track the next day, it's better than continuing to over-indulge for days or weeks," said Feldman. "You can make exercise social. Go out for walks with friends, or do laps around the mall if the weather is less friendly," advises Feldman.

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from the mall, walking short distances instead of driving and enlisting an exercise buddy who can help you stay on track are all good options.

Trade your high heels for a pair of sneakers and try her advice when you go shopping next time at Sherman Oaks Galleria, Universal City Walk or Encino Place Shopping Center. 

"You have to schedule exercise like it's a doctor's appointment you have to get to. Budget time in your schedule for exercise, or work it into everyday activity," said Feldman. 

She said she didn't believe in prescribing vitamin supplements unless there are deficiencies. "If the doctor is OK with it, a general multivitamin from a reputed company like Centrum, once a day, is OK," said Feldman. You could get that at West-Val Pharmacy, or your local Rite-Aid.

Feldman said the biggest key to remaining healthy and avoiding colds and flu during the holidays is not necessarily diet-related, but associated with good hygiene.

"Wash your hands frequently, especially before you eat, and after visiting the bathroom is important," said Feldman. "Also, drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is good."

However, if you think you are going to be exposed to germs, make sure to keep a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, take in adequate protein, whole grains and food items that have beneficial nutrients and anti-oxidants that can keep you energized and help protect against illnesses. The Encino Farmers' Market is a great place to pick up fresh produce.

And of course, there's that magic remedy for staying healthy--getting plenty of sleep.

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