So. You've committed yourself to be good this holiday season when it comes to eating.

Instead of downing the plate of cookies your neighbor just brought over, you're only going to eat one. Grandma's fudge? Just a nibble.

And definitely no "seconds" on the gravy and mashed potatoes during Thanksgiving dinner.

That's the plan.

But are you actually going to accomplish it? Some trainers believe the average American gains between 5 pounds to 10 pounds during the holiday season, although research by the National Institutes of Health shows it's closer to one pound.

Either way, it all adds up. And if you're serious about being good, there's a few tips, tricks and pieces of advice that can help. The No. 1 thing is to remember that eating right during the holidays takes preparation and willpower.

Barb Niederhauser, a Murray-based personal trainer who also specializes in health and fitness consultations, said she would advise people this holiday season to write down a goal for eating or weight management and then determine what barriers could stop them from reaching that goal.

For instance, do you eat when you're stressed? After acknowledging that on paper, you can then determine steps to avoid overindulging when life gets hectic, Niederhauser said. One tactic is to chew gum, or carry carrots and other healthy snacks with you to distract from unhealthy options.

"You always have to have a strategy," Niederhauser said. "Otherwise you'll go into the same behaviors over and over again."

She recommends individuals post their goals everywhere they can see it: On the fridge. Inside the car. At your work computer. Or, if that's too obnoxious, wear something such as a ring or special tie to remind you of your goal, Niederhauser said.

Other tips include minimizing the portion size of treats you normally eat, bringing a healthy snack to a party, avoiding areas where unhealthy food is being served and drinking enough water.

Nutritionists and trainers say it's also critical that individuals should not starve themselves during the day or even deprive themselves of treats. You're more likely to binge or find yourself craving sugar more than usual.

"If I was to advise anyone, it would be to just eat normal, healthy meals as much as possible," said Diana McGuire, a dietetics professor at Brigham Young University. "People tend to do this feast and famine thing. They starve themselves, then feast. Starve and feast. And then they eat too much when they do eat."

She tells people to control what they can in terms of their diet. Cut the fat in special recipes, and emphasize vegetables and fruits as part of meals. When a treat comes to your door, take a bite and then get rid of it. Pack the goodies off to work, re-gift them to a neighbor or freeze the items so they're harder to get at, McGuire said.

"We really are almost programmed to eat if we see it, touch it or smell it," she said.

Rachel Jones, a registered dietitian and nutrition instructor at the University of Utah, said she believes a person will be less likely to binge if they are eating a healthy diet with adequate fiber, protein, water and foods high in vitamin B-6.

Foods with fiber, such as oatmeal, act as a sponge to absorb extra fat, according to Jones. Proteins provide energy, while foods with vitamin B-6 (sunflower seeds, bananas, salmon and spinach) can stabilize moods, she said.

"The object of the game is to get the stuff in your body that it needs there every day," Jones said. "If we can get back to using food as a fuel, things like desserts and treats become what they're meant to be: an enjoyable afterthought. And you'll really enjoy the holidays much better and definitely notice your stress is down."

But it's still hard to maintain willpower when people are constantly bringing food to your doorstep or tempting you with goodies at work.

Melanie Douglass, a registered dietitian and author of "Losing It!," said she advises people to pause for a second and think before they eat. Will they really miss out on something if they don't eat a second cookie? Is that brownie really worth the calories?

"A lot of times we don't stop, we just eat," Douglass said.

Another technique she tells people to use when deciding whether to eat something is repeat a "think tough" phrase in their head. That could be something such as "I am the boss of food" or "I don't have to eat anything."

Another tip is to avoid eating out at restaurants, or soliciting help from people at a party to avoid certain treats.

But if you fail and give in to something not-so-nutritious, don't give up, McGuire said. Give yourself credit when it's due. Forgive yourself and don't feel guilt.

"During the holiday season, there's not a time of day where you don't have to make a choice along the lines of food," she said. "So be patient, do the best you can, try and control portion sizes and somehow we'll all get through it."

References:

— American Dietetic Association: eatright.org

— Melanie Douglass: melaniedouglass@gmail.com

— Barb Niederhauser: bnfit@gmail.com


Tips from the experts to avoid overeating

1. Don't deprive yourself of sweets. You might find yourself eating more than normal when tempted with something that's high-fat or full of sugar.

2. Eat nutritious and regular meals throughout the day.

3. Drink plenty of water. Rachel Jones at the University of Utah recommends 3 liters for women and 4 liters for men.

4. Don't keep treats within sight. Freeze the goodies that come to the door, re-gift them to a neighbor, or send them to the office.

5. Bring a low-fat side-dish to parties.

6. Don't eat out. Plan simple, healthy meals in advance of dinner or lunch.

7. Save room during the holidays for the foods you only really eat on those holidays. Give up your mashed potatoes and gravy to make room for your dad's special stuffing.

8. Learn portion control. Trainer and consultant Barb Niederhauser recommends you mentally divide your dinner plate into three portions: one for proteins, one for veggies and the last for a starch or whole grain. Only eat what can fit into the designated portion on your plate.

9. Don't skip meals and limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol and sugar drinks.

10. Chew gum. Brush your teeth after eating dinner. Bring healthy snacks to work.

11. Think tough. Dietitian Melanie Douglass recommends you come up with a phrase such as "I am smarter than a cookie" and repeat it over and over in your head as a way to help you avoid eating too many sweets.

12. Increase your workout time.

SOURCES: Diana McGuire, Barb Niederhauser, Melanie Douglass, Rachel Jones


BYU nutrition students chime in with advice

— Donate excess treats to a hospital or hospice. Take extra food to the soup kitchen. (Lauren Birk)

— With every holiday treat you eat, eat a celery stick. You will get sick of eating celery and will stop eating sweets! (Rebecca Mabey)

— Don't eat sweets out of the container. Take a small amount out to eat.

— Don't buy sweets unless they have a specific use.

— Plan family hikes or outings to burn calories and get out of the house and away from the fridge. For example: Cut down a Christmas tree together. Or, park at the farthest parking stall from a store and walk.

— Eat based on hunger and avoid thinking this is the only time you'll get to eat this food.

— Make sure you are eating balanced meals that satisfy your hunger throughout the day. You will be less likely to "graze" on high-calorie snacks between meals if you are full. (Susan Bradford)

— You can always substitute some of the ingredients while making a dessert. (Gabriela Clark)

— Use fat free or 1 percent milk when baking. Eat a balanced meal before going to a holiday party so you will be less tempted to eat those high calorie desserts (Janelle Connell)

— Increase the amount of physical activity you are doing.

— Eat on a salad plate instead of a large dinner plate.

— Drink a cup of water before eating.

— Put healthier options out around the house to snack on instead of candy in candy dishes.

— Try not to stress about it.

— Enjoy a small amount and then freeze the rest for a few months later when sweets aren't around so much.

— Go light on gravies and pick your favorite dessert. There is no need to try them all. (Shannon Patty)

— Fill a plate with nutrient-dense foods first such as fruits and vegetables. (Mandy Stephens)

— Sometimes just getting the sweets out of sight gets them out of your mind. (Jessica Brothers)

— When using oil in a recipe, you can replace it with applesauce to decrease calories for the holidays. (Misty Kay)

— Split desserts into halves or fourths so you "trick" yourself into eating four pieces of candy when you're only getting the calories of one. (Cheyna Shumway)

— Think moderation because deprivation often leads to binge eating. (Nicole Johnson)

— If you don't like them, throw it away. (Laura Bain)

— Put out bowls of fruits and vegetables to snack on. (Michelle Curtis)

— Focus on the little things you can do in your everyday life. Instead of trying to fit in a two-hour workout, park farther away when shopping and shovel the driveway instead of snow blowing it. (Andrea Jensen)


Advice from Diana McGuire and her students in the NDFS 400 Community Nutrition Class at BYU


E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com