Follow these simple and smart techniques to help you keep the pounds off this season.

If you’re one of the 45 million people who are constantly on a diet, it may be time to take a break from weight loss this holiday season and, instead, focus on avoiding weight gain.

Although studies show the average weight gain for a person of healthy weight is a pound during the holidays, research also shows that we don’t lose that pound — ever. We continue to add this pound annually. For most people, that means our weight is creeping up, year after year, over a lifetime.

When you enter the holiday season overweight, studies show even more weight is gained.

The good news? No matter your starting weight, the more aware and mentally prepared you are, the less weight you will gain. At least, that’s what studies seem to suggest. Changing your mind set and your behaviors is a wellness strategy to adopt this season — and for the rest of your life.

Here are five simple and smart ways to help you avoid gaining weight during the holidays:

Take a healthy snack with you. Ever find yourself hungry while out doing holiday errands, but there’s nowhere to go for a healthy bite? Bring a water bottle, apple or banana, nuts, trail mix, tomato or V-8 juice, or raw veggies in the car. That healthy snack will take the edge off your hunger and prevent binge eating later.

Move more and sit less. Enjoy outdoor activities (skiing, snow-shoeing, winter hiking) with family and friends. Shun elevators and escalators, and take the steps everywhere. Park at the far end of the mall parking lot so you’ll get your steps in as you make multiple trips to the car with packages in tow.

Make swaps for calorie drops. Lower calories in dishes by substituting healthier, low-cal ingredients that have great flavor. Try nonfat or low-fat cream cheese, nonfat Greek yogurt or fat free half-and-half in your mashed potatoes, cream soups or cream sauces; substitute riced cauliflower for half of your mashed potatoes; double the veggies in recipes to increase volume and decrease calories.

Choose your indulgences wisely and enjoy every bite. Decide what is worth splurging on this season and savor it. Try the three-bite rule to guide your eating: First bite is amazing, second bite so full of pleasure, third bite is satisfying. Now stop and ask yourself: Do I really need to eat the rest of that dessert? Limit your indulgences to a few that will satisfy you for the season. And, remember, there’s always next year.

Keep up with your exercise routine. Developing an exercise habit is crucial to weight control and well-being, so don’t let the holidays interfere. If you can’t break a sweat, even 20 minutes of brisk walking, lunges, push-ups, squats and jogging in place will boost your metabolic and mental health.

Disclaimer: This is for information only and not intended as personal medical advice.

First published in The Daily Herald