How to Avoid Packing on Holiday Pounds

It's easy to gain weight during the holidays, at all those parties and big dinners.

But, says Men's Health magazine Senior Editor Matt Bean, you can enjoy yourself without expanding your waistline by eating right. You just have to know what to eat, and what not to.

Men's Health is out with a book called "Eat This, Not That," a guide to the good and bad foods in your life, geared toward helping you make smart food choices all year. And Bean says the holiday season is a case in point.

FRONT-LOAD WITH PROTEIN

The protein station is an arena you'll want to hover around that isn't necessarily bad for your holiday eating. Lettuce wraps, turkey slices, or other meat appetizers are good options, because they will keep you full longer -- they need more time to digest than muffins, bread or crackers.

SELECT YOUR SIN

If you know you're going to indulge in alcohol, don't indulge in food or, if you're going to indulge in food, don't indulge in alcohol. Pick your vice of choice and stick with it, and always try to keep it in moderation.

SHRINK YOUR PLATE

We've heard it before, but it's always worth hearing again: People tend to over-serve on larger plates. And a two-inch difference in plate diameter would result in 22 percent fewer calories served, and weight loss of around 18 pounds per year. So, pick the small plate in the buffet line; you can always go back.

BUDGET YOUR CALORIES

If you're heading to a party and you know you'll be surrounded by food, prepare for it by cutting your portions in half during the rest of the day. If you can save 300 to 500 calories before a party, that means you can eat more later. But don't go to a party starving: Overeating is a real danger there.

TALK MORE, EAT LESS

The whole point of a party is to catch up with people, so spend more time chatting and less time chewing. At the dinner table, take a few bites, then strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. Another trick is to match your partner or the person you're talking with, bite for bite. A British study found fast-eating men were 84 percent more likely to be overweight than slower eaters.

TAKE A WALK

Before choosing food from the buffet table, take a lap all the way around to determine the foods you want. Choose those first, and add extras only if your plate has room. That way, you'll indulge in exactly what you want, and won't end up going back to the buffet table for the piece you missed but are dying to have.

FOODS TO SERVE

Appetizers

Eat This: Tomato Brushetta, 200 cals, 4 grams of fat
Plus: You get a full serving of vegetables and licopene, which helps prevent heart disease. The dip is barely linked to any vegetable.
Not That: Spinach Artichoke Dip, 325 cals, 19 grams of fat

Drink

Eat This: Glass of Red Wine (5 oz) 125 cals
Plus: research shows that pinot noir has the highest concentration of the flavonoids in wine that actually help protect the cardiovascular system.
Not That: Glass of Beer (12 oz) 159 cals Although there are almost the same amount of calories, red wine will give you flavonoids, and therefore will help your heart. Beer will make you feel bloated.

Main Protein

Eat This: Beef Tenderloin (6 oz), 300 cals, 15 grams of fat
Plus: Save cash by buying the whole tenderloin. To prepare, rub the lean beef with olive oil, garlic and roast rosemary and you have a no-fail holiday favorite.
Not That: Prime Rib (6 oz), 600 cals, 25 grams of fat
Note: The rib roasts used to make Prime Rib are the most caloric cuts of beef and full of surface and intramuscular fat. Which makes it delicious and tender, but unhealthy.

Sides

Eat This: Roasted Red Potatoes, 100 cals, 5 grams of fat
Plus: Any roasted vegetable with the right seasoning will be a welcome addition to a plate.
Not That: Baked Potato with butter and sour cream, 400 cals, 14 grams of fat
Note: When you add other favorites like bacon and cheese you can up the calorie count another 100 - 200 calories. That's nearly a full meal. Baked potatoes with dressings are submarines for fat.
NOTE: The yam is a better alternative to both of these....

Dessert

Eat This: Chocolate Fondue with Cut up Fruit, 200 cals, 8 grams of fat
Plus: Go with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate and you'll get deeper flavor with added antioxidants from the chocolate.
Not That: Pecan Pie, 450 calories per slice, 21 grams of fat
Note: The healthy fat from the pecans is not enough to justify the extra load of corn syrup calories.

iPhone App

Men's Health has a new "Eat This, Not That!" iPhone App. It's a grocery store companion providing cooking tips and on-the-go advice. It's available on Men'sHealth.com.