5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain & Still Enjoy the Food

From when to eat and how, here's what you need to stay on track.

Food on a dinner table

The holidays are always that time of year when people are worried about gaining weight. The darker, colder days make us crave comfort in the form of heavy, calorie-laden foods, and holiday baked goods are just too darn delicious to say no.

Fortunately, Dr. Michael Crupain, chief medical officer of "The Dr. Oz Show" and Dr. Michael Roizen, an anesthesiologist and internist, are here to offer some healthy holiday tips that won't break the calorie bank. The doctor duet's latest book, "The What to Eat When Cookbook" is filled with delicious and nutritious recipes that will keep your family full all-season-long.

First, Dr. Crupain wants everyone to know that nobody gains the "holiday 15" from a couple of big meals. That's just not how our bodies work, he says. It's the days in between — what he calls "the hot zone" — where the pounds start to add up. It's the cookies in the break room, the multiple holiday parties, the quick mall meal after shopping, the festive coffees, etc. that make the difference.

But it's the holidays! You should be able to indulge, right? Both docs agree that if you can keep temptation at a minimum during the days surrounding the actual holidays, then you should be able to keep the extra pounds off. You can do this by cooking your own food and swapping the usual suspects like butter and heavy cream with healthier options.

Here is their No. 1 tip for keeping the weight off:

Eat Earlier!

Why wait for the later hours to consume your calories? We have become accustomed to snacking while binging our favorite shows before bed, but our bodies expect food during the day and a fast at night, Crupain says. This means that the calories that we eat in the morning actually don't count as much as the ones we eat at night. Croissants for breakfast, anyone?

We should be flipping the way we eat, Crupain says. Make breakfast and lunch your biggest meals and make dinner something small. It's easier than you think. When we eat bigger meals for breakfast and lunch, we'll be less hungry come dinner time, anyway, he says.

When it is time to eat, Dr. Crupain and Dr. Roizen suggest these simple swaps that will save calories while keeping your family satiated.

Swap Milk Chocolate for Dark Chocolate

Nobody is going to replace chocolate with broccoli. So make it easier: Replace milk chocolate with dark chocolate. It has less fat and less sugar, and has antioxidant properties that can help protect against damaging free radicals, Roizen says.

Replace Mashed Potatoes With Sweet Potatoes

This makes a huge difference, Roizen says. Mashed potatoes are usually made with a lot of butter or heavy cream, whereas sweet potatoes taste great mashed on their own. You can even add some garlic and a splash of orange juice to the potatoes and you're all set, he adds.

Roizen's pro tip: Eat them at room temperature instead of hot (really!), and it's even better!

Swap Out Butter in Baked Goods

We know butter makes baked goods delicious. But it is possible to swap out butter for something healthier and still make magic in the oven.

Try replacing 1 cup of butter with 1/2 cup of olive oil or 1 cup of applesauce. You can even use 1 cup of beet puree. These simple swaps save hundreds of calories but keep all of the flavor.

Try a Crust-less Pie:

Dr. Crupain suggests keeping the pie, but removing the crust.

Both he and Dr. Roizen love making "a pie-less pie" which is basically a mixture of pumpkin and sweet potatoes. You can dress up these nutrient-rich veggies with vanilla extract, maple syrup, banana, and almond butter, they say.

"You will not miss the pie crust," Crupain says.

Dr. Crupain and Dr. Roizen also created a decadent cookie recipe that is actually healthy, and we have the exclusive recipe. It's made with a raisin reduction that will have all of your holiday guests swooning. Get the recipe here!

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