03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Holiday Dining Could Be a Killer

We've all read pieces on how to save a buck. Here's one on how to save something far more valuable -- your life.

As everyone knows, a bum stock can bloody you financially, but bum eating is worse; it can kill you. Accordingly, what follows is a different kind of a business story, namely the business of staying alive. Far more relevant than any of those supposedly sure-fire, can't-miss stock tips, here's an expert's thoughts on the do's and don'ts of holiday dining and how to stick around longer than most and maybe join an ultra-exclusive group of 97,000 Americans who have reached 100 years or older..

The subject of what we consume is especially relevant now, since we're at that time of the year again when we all have a tendency to eat and drink more than usual. Overdoing it could be a killer. And it all started on Thanksgiving when we began nibbling away at the turkey.

According to the National Institute of Health, Americans, on average, will tack on between 5 and 8 pounds because of increased eating, drinking and partying during the holidays.

"We've entered another major junk food period," says nationally known nutrition expert Debi Davis, president of Fit America, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based company specializing in health and wellness programs. It comes at a point in time, she points out, when more than a third of all Americans, including the kids, are either obese or overweight. In brief, she explains, it's a significant risk period for the binger because a heavier frame heightens the chance of diabetes, heart attack and a stroke and it exposes you to higher medical costs in your senior years.

Unfortunately, she notes, statistics show that weight loss, invariably the number one new year's resolution, is thwarted and forgotten by Feb. 1.

In addition, a study by the National Institute of Health concluded something we all pretty much know -- the thinner we are the greater the opportunity for advancement in the business world. The institute figures a leaner frame increases your chances by about 70% of a job promotion if you're competing against someone who is visibly overweight or obese.

Ms. Davis, a slim, fetching blonde who shed 85 pounds in 1991, has come up with a checklist of 10 ways to fight holiday weight gains so you don't wind up the year looking like Mr. or Ms. Santa without the suit. Here's the list:

1. Drink at least 64 ounces (or eight glasses) of water a day. This will help flush out the additional fats you may be consuming and keep your body hydrated during a period when we tend to drink more alcohol.

2. Fill up on protein-rich foods (such as chicken, turkey and lean meats). Also, eat fruits and vegetables whenever possible and try to avoid salads with heavy mayonnaise.

3. Sample desserts. If you like sweets, nibble on a variety rather than eating an entire serving of one.

4. Never attend a party hungry. Eat a substantial lunch or protein-rich snack before party time so you are not so hungry that you binge on high-calorie chips, dips and hors d'oeuvres.

5. Limit your alcohol consumption. Wine is a better choice than mixed drinks because the alcohol and sugar/calorie content is lower. It is also much better than beer because beer is full of extra carbohydrates.

6. Exercise whenever possible. Walk instead of driving. Park far away from stores while doing your holiday shopping.

7. Don't keep holiday snack treats handy at home. Eat treats only when you go out.

8. Eat regular meals. Schedules are always crazy during the holidays and eating tends to be irregular. Try and keep meals as lean and as well balanced as possible.

9. Take your vitamins! Nutritional support is important when you have more obligations than usual and are over-stressed. Take them twice a day so give your body around-the-clock protection.

10. Anytime you are full and not hungry, don't eat.

Ms. Davis's bottom line: Holiday risks abound when it comes to your waistline. Controlling your eating and guzzling before New Year's Day could make 2010 a happier new year medically and financially; it also might help save your life.

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