By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D. , December 21, 2011 - 12:57pm
Here’s a depressing piece of information: Americans put on half of our annual weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Granted, that’s just two pounds a year, but research shows that people don’t lose it when the partying ends. And if that happens year after year after year…well, you can do the math.
It’s much easier to not gain weight in the first place than it is to lose what you’ve put on. Ward off winter weight gain the easy way with these 5 tips.
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1. Cut down on your screen time
Turn off the TV and the computer and enjoy your meal without distractions. Making an effort to be mindful, no matter what you’re eating, can help break the tendency to overeat—and help you feel more satisfied. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants who ate lunch without distractions felt fuller 30 minutes after eating, and ate less when they snacked later, than people who played solitaire on a computer during their midday meal.
2. Move more
Even fitness fanatics are discouraged by the winter weather. Here’s the good news: you can significantly increase your overall calorie burn with everyday activities—so called “incidental exercise.” Unpacking the car for 10 minutes burns 30 calories. Straighten up the house for 20 minutes and use up 62 calories. Skip the escalators and elevators: 10 minutes of stair climbing burns 107 calories. Shoveling snow for 45 minutes will torch 342 calories.
Related: Have 10 Minutes? Try This Quick Holiday Exercise Plan 
3. Indulge your cravings
In moderation. Studies suggest that feeling deprived—even if you are consuming plenty of calories—can trigger overeating. And making any food off-limits just increases its allure. So savor a small treat: it won’t break your diet! Two squares of dark chocolate or ½ cup of (nonpremium) ice cream clock in at under 150 calories. Or try these quick recipes for 100-calorie (or less) chocolate treats .
Related: How to Save 1,000 Calories Now to Splurge Later 
4. Get 8 hours of sleep
Skimping on shut-eye can pack on the pounds, possibly by altering hunger hormones. Other recent research—out of Harvard—shows that missing even an hour or two of sleep may make you more likely to give in to junk food the next day. Why? The prefrontal cortex—part of the brain responsible for self-control—is compromised by sleep loss.
Related: 9 Foods to Help You Sleep Better 
5. Sneak veggies in
You know that eating more vegetables (fruit, too) is an easy way to cut calories—you get a lot of food for not that many calories, plus a healthy dose of feel-full fiber. But sneaking veggies into your favorite dishes might help, too: when researchers from Penn State University gave people two nearly identical versions of entrees—one was sneakily made lighter with hidden pureed veggies—participants ate fewer calories (in some cases nearly 400 fewer calories) and more fiber, yet reported feeling just as full and satisfied, when they ate the hidden–vegetable entree.
Recipes to Try: Delicious Low-Calorie Dinners Packed with Vegetables