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When the cold weather sets in, it’s natural to want to avoid the chill by staying huddled inside the house. While lounging by the fireplace may be cozy, staying cooped up in the house can lead to inactivity, overeating and indulging in unhealthy comfort foods.To make matters worse, the holiday season is notorious for parties featuring indulgent dishes that can cause you to pack on the pounds. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans typically gain a minimal amount of weight during the holiday season, but that extra weight often stays on, accumulating through the years with the potential to become a major contributor to obesity later in life.

Nutritionist and author of the 4 Habits of Healthy Families Amy Hendel offers these tips to help you and your family avoid the winter weight gain:

Practice the Four P’s – Plan, Prepare, Portion, Play

One of the key elements for battling the bulge is planning and preparation. Plan your menus, and prepare snacks and meals ahead of time so you are less likely to slip and reach for something unhealthy. Portion control is also important, so when you’re examining what’s on your plate, use visual cues to help you. For example, three to four ounces of protein is about the size of a deck of cards. Finally, playing doesn’t refer to video games. Physical activity will not only help with weight management, but it will improve your mood during those dreary winter days.

Count It Out

Be vigilant about the amount of unhealthy snacks you consume during the colder months and make modifications to your food choices accordingly. If you are having trouble cutting out the snacks, limit the amount you eat by keeping smaller portions of them in individual bags. Try finding alternatives to snack foods, such as dried fruit, yogurt and hummus. Keeping fruits and vegetables pre-cut and easily accessible in the fridge will make you more likely to reach for them when hunger strikes.

Play the Yes, No, Maybe So Game

Knowing which category your food choices fall into will help you make smarter decisions at the grocery store. Fruits and vegetables are “Yes” foods because they are nutrient-dense, have lots of vitamins and fill you up and not out. “Maybe So” foods such as grains, beans and legumes, olive oil, almonds, dark chocolate and healthy fats like those found in fish should be eaten in moderation. The “No” foods tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients, and include desserts, soda and sugary juices, white grains, high-fat meat and dairy products, and many processed foods.

Stay Hydrated

Water should be your go-to beverage because it hydrates, and drinking more water can lead to weight loss, according to a study presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. To help you and your family get the daily recommended water intake, use a quick-filling pitcher like the Filtrete water pitcher, which filters and fills five times faster than traditional filtering water pitchers. The pitcher helps reduce sediment, chlorine taste and odor from tap water and easily fits on the refrigerator shelf or in the door for easy access by the whole family.

Release Your Inner Child

Don’t use cold weather as an excuse to stop being active; hibernation is for the bears! Try to exercise for 45 minutes to an hour per day. When you’re out and about, park farther away from buildings, take walks in shopping malls and always use the stairs. If stormy weather is preventing you from getting out of the house, exercise inside as a family: climb stairs for a cardio workout, create an obstacle course in the living room, or simply play an active game, such as freeze dance, indoor volleyball with balloons or floor hockey using wrapping paper tubes for the sticks and sponges for the puck. Practicing yoga, martial arts and Pilates are also great ways to fight the winter blues.

Six Rules of Family Food Choices

1. Food is not the enemy. Don’t think of eating as a bad thing and starving as a good thing. Remember that food is fuel that gives your body energy.

2. Foods are not good or bad. Some foods are healthier than others, and we should eat those foods more often – but no one eats healthy food 100 percent of the time. An indulgence every now and then isn’t the end of the world.

3. Food cops do not exist. Don’t police your family members, criticizing their every food choice. You don’t want people to feel guilty or ashamed.

4. Food choices are individual. What works for one person, may not work for another. We all have different foods that we like and don’t like.

5. Even a little bit is better. Whenever possible, reach for a little bit healthier food. All of our little improvements really do make a big difference in the long run.

6. Tomorrow is another day to make good choices. Making good food choices isn’t a short-term plan; it’s a lifetime plan. Some days will be better than others, but what really matters is the long haul.