- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2000

Nadine Pazder calls it the "three-bite rule," one she says is "guaranteed to get people through any kind of social event without gaining weight or [at least with] gaining very little weight."
Her rule? Take three bites of anything you want at any holiday party, but stop at that.
"The first bite is to let them know what kind of food it is, whether it's peanut butter or pate," says Ms. Pazder, a registered dietitian in Clearwater, Fla., and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
"The second bite is to see how good the food is, so you can tell your host or hostess with all sincerity when you leave, `The food was wonderful.' The third bite will tell you how the rest of the platter would have tasted, so you can move on.
"What that manages to do for you is allow you to try anything without feeling deprived, and it limits the portion for you. When you move through the buffet line, you can end up with a lot of food on your plate, and this helps avoid that."
Some people need all the help they can get when the holiday season approaches. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner is just the starter's pistol for a month-long series of office parties, family get-togethers and plates of cookies and brownies that mysteriously appear at work from willing-to-share co-workers.
Then, when people step on the scales in January, they find an extra pound or two or five.
It all adds up, although perhaps not as much as previously thought. Conventional wisdom has held that people gain an average of five pounds or so during the holidays, but a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March found that figure probably was exaggerated.
"They found that it's more like one to two pounds, which is the good news," says Tammy Baker, a registered dietitian in Scottsdale, Ariz. "But the bad news is that it frequently doesn't come off after the holiday season. So this accumulation is going on every year."
Ms. Baker says holiday celebrants need to focus on two areas when it comes to weight gain during the holidays what to do at parties and what to do around the house.
She says people can help themselves at home by limiting their baking and other kitchen preparations to items that don't allow for "sampling or nibbling," such as bread or homemade hot chocolate or apple cider. Cookies, brownies and other "nibbling" items make it easy to add calories here or there during the preparation process.
As for parties, she says, "You want to make sure you never go to a party hungry. Appetizers can contribute 1,000 extra calories, and those holiday beverages like eggnog and fruity beverages can put on calories without you ever feeling like you had a meal."
Her rule of thumb at holiday buffets is to fill up three-quarters of the plate with lower-calorie foods and one-quarter with the high-calorie items so party-goers don't feel deprived.
"You really have to budget your calories, just like a checkbook," Ms. Baker says. "If there is something you really like to have, there is nothing wrong with special calories here or there. You just have to step away from the eating area. And you're better off standing around people who aren't eating."
Ms. Pazder says she tells clients not to make a big deal out of the "big three" meals during the holidays Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas (or Christmas Eve or Hanukkah) dinner and New Year's Eve (or Day) dinner, particularly if any of those gatherings involve indelible family traditions.
"If you're eating three meals a day, you're consuming 1,095 meals a year, and those three meals themselves are just a drop in the bucket," Ms. Pazder says. "If you're overweight or have heart disease, what you ate for Thanksgiving isn't what put you in that shape today.
"I make a point of telling people that when they get away from the table at Thanksgiving, when the meal and the holiday are over, then they need to go back to consideration of counting fat grams and watching calories. It's eating around those three meals that gets people into trouble.
Exercise can help, too. Both Ms. Baker and Ms. Pazder emphasize the importance of keeping up even minimal exercise during the holidays, even in simple forms as parking farther away at shopping malls or going for a walk at lunch instead of being tempted by the goodies in the cafeteria or the co-worker's desk.
"There are little ways that a little extra activity can help offset a little extra eating during the holidays, Ms. Baker says.

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