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7 Ways To Avoid Holiday Weight Gain (Hint: Eat Your Veggies)

12/01/2011 11:13 am ET | Updated Jan 31, 2012

Looking to avoid holiday weight gain -- and feel better at the same time -- this December? It's easier than you think. No need for fancy diets, juice fasts, or personal trainers. Just follow the sage advice your mom gave you as a kid: "Eat your vegetables."

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OK, maybe you have a few bad memories left over from childhood... canned peas, boiled Brussels sprouts, or not-exactly-green beans. Or like me, you may have been denied dessert until you finished every last mushy carrot on your plate. But vegetables needn't be punishment. In fact, they can easily become the most delicious part of your diet with a few simple techniques and recipes (see below). Ever tried roasting cauliflower and sprinkling it with Parmesan? What about sauteing Swiss chard with some garlic and olive oil and throwing it into your favorite pasta dish? Or roasting acorn squash drizzled with Balsamic vinaigrette? You might just be in for a pleasant surprise.

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Packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals galore, vegetables are nature's super-foods. They're also low in calories and fat, which means they fill you up without weighing you down. And a huge body of research indicates that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help prevent cancer, heart disease, and chronic illness. Hard to ignore that many benefits in one food group! And yet, consistently Americans are not eating enough vegetables.

A study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention last year indicated that only 26% of Americans eat vegetables 3 or more times a day, even though experts recommend that we aim for 5 to 9 servings of vegetables and fruits daily. It's no wonder that we're suffering from a massive obesity epidemic and growing numbers of chronic illnesses.

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This December, I for one, am going to try to eat more vegetables. That doesn't mean I won't enjoy a few holiday cookies or indulge in some baked Brie at a cocktail party-but by eating my veggies every day (just like mom said!), I'll feel healthier and less inclined to binge.

I've created the recipes below to use a variety of fall/winter vegetables, and to maximize color and flavor. Most are quite simple to prepare and many of the side dishes can be made in advance, which means you can keep them in the fridge for a light, healthy meal before going out to a party-a tip I highly recommend. That way you're not ravenous when surrounded by the aforementioned cookies and Brie. Happy cooking!

7 Delicious Winter Vegetable Dishes: (click on the links below for recipes)

Side Dishes & Salads
1. Brussels Sprouts & Red Cabbage Slaw

Main Dishes (with Stealthily Added Vegetables)
6. Spaghetti Carbonara with Garlicky Greens