• Image: Pumpkin pie
    Indulging in treats like pumpkin pie lends to unwanted extra pounds during the holiday season.

    An extra serving of sweet potatoes, a sliver of pumpkin pie, a Campari cocktail or two. By itself, each of these festive splurges seems so innocent. But like holiday presents, dietary indulgences come at a cost. Most of us never lose the 1 to 2 pounds we gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve—and over the years, they add up. The damage is even worse when December's hearty eating patterns take hold and last well into spring, as they often do.

    That is why we developed this 3-day recovery plan—to get you out of party excess mode and put you on a healthy eating track for the new year. It's simple, fast, and effective. Stick with it and you will have those extra pounds gone before you take down a single decoration.

    Tips to help you start—and stick to— your new diet plan.

  • Break the cycle

    The splurge

    Those dreams of sugarplums dancing in your head may be more like a nightmare brought on by too many sweet treats. While experts used to dismiss the notion of sugar addiction, a growing body of research suggests that the sweet stuff can hijack the same brain circuitry that's affected by drugs and alcohol, leading to a vicious cycle of cravings and binges. And holiday desserts with high levels of both sugar and fat provide a double whammy. The sugar hooks you, while the fat piles on the pounds.

    The solution
    Eliminate desserts that are rich in sugar and fat for at least 3 days—7 to 10 would be even better. This will help quell cravings while you start to reestablish a taste for naturally sweet foods, such as fruit and starchy vegetables.

    Keep off the weight with these diet-friendly desserts from The Biggest Loser.

  • Resize your belly

    The splurge
    As the "it's a holiday, I'll diet tomorrow" mentality sets in, one of your natural appetite control systems—the stomach's network of stretch receptors—starts losing its effectiveness. Normally, when your stomach is full, these receptors send messages to the brain that say "I'm satisfied." But prolonged periods of overeating make the receptors less sensitive. This helps explain why that feeling of "I'm so full, I'll never eat again" is followed the next day by the sense that you're even hungrier than usual.

    The solution
    If you keep eating the same high-calorie foods but merely reduce the quantity, your stretch receptors will signal your brain that you're starving and need emergency rations—now. But you can short-circuit this by eating healthy-size servings of low-calorie, high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Their bulk will keep the receptors happy while avoiding excess calories.

    10 Foods that help fight belly fat.

  • Cut down on cocktails

    Image: Eggnog
    Featurepics stock
    When it comes to holiday excess, eggnog is a triple threat packed with sugar, fat and alcohol.

    The splurge
    So you had a few too many spiked eggnogs. The problem isn't just the sugar and fat. The alcohol itself packs in 7 calories per gram (compared with 4 for protein and carbs and 9 for fat). And the stomach and brain don't register liquid calories in the same way as solids, so it's easy to go right on eating and drinking—without compensating for the added calories.

    The solution
    Satisfying, low-calorie beverages can boost metabolism and even temper your hunger. Tea (lose the cream and sugar) has zero calories and lifts metabolic rate. Or prepare a pitcher of flavored water. Add sliced oranges, lemons, and limes to a pitcher—or toss in berries or sprigs of mint or lemongrass. They're refreshing and give you healing antioxidants.

    Instead of spiked eggnog and other high-calorie drinks, try these 20 super-healthy smoothies.

  • Your 3-day detox diet: Day 1

    Image: Food Yogurt's Progress
    Eric Risberg  /  AP
    Non-fat greek yogurt is part of the snack plan for Day 1 of the detox diet.

    Egg white-veggie scramble: ½ c egg whites (or 4 egg whites) with 1 c chopped mixed vegetables (tomato, bell pepper, baby spinach leaves), prepared with cooking spray

    1 slice toasted whole grain bread or ½ whole wheat English muffin with 2 tsp 100% fruit spread

    1 c fat-free Greek-style yogurt

    Coffee or tea with ¼ c fat-free milk
    1 sheet graham cracker with 2 tsp natural (no added sugar) peanut butter
    Hummus-veggie pita sandwich: ½ whole grain pita spread with 1 tsp deli mustard and 1 Tbsp hummus, then stuffed with vegetables (bell peppers, sprouts, lettuce, tomato) and 2 slices avocado

    1 medium orange or 2 tangerines

    Unsweetened herbal tea (hot or iced) with cinnamon stick
    1 piece fresh fruit or 1 c mixed vegetables with 2 tsp oil and vinegar dressing
    3 oz grilled salmon brushed with citrus glaze while cooking
    Citrus glaze: 1 Tbsp each orange juice, honey, and reduced-sodium soy sauce
    ½ c cooked brown rice prepared with 1 tsp olive oil
    1 c cooked winter squash, broccoli, or asparagus

    ½ c fat-free plain Greek-style yogurt with 2 tsp 100% fruit spread
    1,288 cal, 91 g pro, 181 g carb, 27 g fiber, 26 g fat, 4.5 g sat fat, 1,322 mg sodium, 82 mg cholesterol

    8 superfoods that also help fight diease.

  • Day 2

    1 c low-fat (1%), no-added-salt cottage cheese with ½ c pineapple chunks
    5 whole grain crackers
    Coffee or tea with ¼ c fat-free milk

    ½ turkey sandwich: 1 slice whole grain bread with 2 oz low-sodium or reduced-sodium turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, and 1 tsp mustard

    Pasta tuna salad: 1 c cooked whole grain pasta spirals or bow ties with 1 c chopped cherry tomatoes and our tuna salad
    Tuna salad: 4 oz waterpacked tuna mixed with 2 Tbsp chopped white onion, 1 Tbsp fat-free Greek-style yogurt, and 2 tsp Dijon mustard
    Water with sprigs of mint or lemongrass


    1 medium orange

    3 oz broiled or grilled boneless chicken breast
    1 medium baked sweet potato topped with 2 tsp light spread
    2 c tossed field greens drizzled with 1 Tbsp vinaigrette dressing

    Unsweetened herbal tea (hot or iced) with lemon
    1,242 cal, 122 g pro, 146 g carb, 26 g fiber, 21.5 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 1,565 mg sodium, 162 mg cholesterol

  • Day 3

    A bowl of oatmeal topped with fruit is breakfast on Day 3 of the plan.

    1 c cooked oatmeal topped with ¼ cup fat-free plain or vanilla Greek-style yogurt and 1 c berries

    Coffee or tea with ¼ c fat-free milk
    1 oz low-fat cheese with 5 whole grain crackers


    1 c low-sodium lentil soup or minestrone soup
    2 c mixed salad greens with ¼ c low-sodium water-packed tuna or low-sodium diced turkey and 1 tsp olive oil with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar


    Unsweetened herbal tea with cinnamon stick
    1 piece fresh fruit (banana or apple) or 1 c berries, with 8 oz fat-free plain or vanilla Greek-style yogurt

    Veggie burger on whole wheat bun topped with 2 slices avocado
    Spinach salad: 1 ½ c baby spinach; ¼ red onion, sliced; ¼ c fresh mandarin orange slices; and 1 tsp olive oil with balsamic vinegar

    Seltzer water with sliced lemon, orange, or lime
    1,277 cal, 86 g pro, 173 g carb, 34 g fiber,32 g fat, 5 g sat fat, 1,577 mg sodium, 38 mg cholesterol


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