Helpful tips for cheer without fear

Nicole Greene Barrato

1) Lose the liquid calories

It's the holiday season. You want to kick back and relax with family and friends with a few alcoholic drinks. Sure. Enjoy some wine or beer, or even a mixed drink, but set some guidelines to decrease the amount consumed.

The problem with alcohol calories is how quickly they can add up. The recommended portion of alcohol (which is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol) has 100 to 150 calories; however, we often pour ourselves a larger amount.

You also may think a restaurant will want to skimp on alcohol they put in your glass to save money. Not the case: A study found bars and restaurants will give 20 to 45 percent more alcohol then the recommended portion. Try the below guidelines to decrease your alcohol calories:

- Only drink alcohol with your meal. That means no meeting up for drinks before dinner or no drinks during cocktail hour. This will reduce the amount of alcohol calories you are consuming.
- Try drinking bottled beer, preferable light. It is easier to portion control the amount of alcohol in bottled beer compared to a glass of wine or mixed drink.
- Use the one-to-one ratio. For every alcoholic drink, have water or a calorie-free beverage instead of multiple drinks in a row. This will help decrease the amount of alcohol consumed.

2) Be smart with restaurant meals

It's the holiday time, which means time off from school or work. This often leads to increasing the amount of dining out. No worries - you can dine out, just be smart with it.

Try the below tips to prevent overdoing it:

- Limit restaurant meals to social events only. Try to avoid ordering in or getting restaurant meals when you are eating alone. That's when you need to take advantage of eating foods you have prepared. For example, if your dinner will be at a restaurant for your company Xmas party, avoid ordering in for lunch.
- Try ordering an appetizer for your meal. This will be a smaller portion than if you ordered an entrée. Feel free to add a salad to this appetizer to add bulk to the meal without the calories.
- One starch rule: If you want a slice of bread from the bread basket, fine, but then you can't have any additional starch (or carbohydrate) for the meal.

3) Hold yourself accountable

Keep a food and/or exercise diary. This will allow you to be more aware of what you are eating and will encourage you to exercise.

Weighing yourself regularly is also a great way to hold yourself accountable for what you are eating. Weighing yourself allows you to see what direction your weight is trending. If you see it trending in the wrong direction, I guarantee you will get back on track sooner than if you are not tracking your weight.

Nicole Greene Barrato, MS, RD, CDE, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She is the founder of NutriGreene.