It only takes an additional 500 calories a day for a few weeks to gain about five pounds.

That's according to Barbara Mintz, MS, RD, Assistant Vice President of Wellness at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

"Whether you are burning less calories because you are exercising less or eating more because of the holiday parties, your calorie intake could be more than your output which adds up to extra pounds.  Keep in mind that one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories.  In a week, that is 500 extra calories a day."

Whether it's the cookies your co-workers bring to the office or an extra serving at dinner or fast food, if you combine it with a lack of exercise because you're just too busy, you can put on weight.

So, how can you maintain a healthy lifestyle during the holidays?:

  • Exercise!  Exercise will help you burn calories, relieve stress, and elevate your mood.  Walking for 10 to 20 minutes a day can make a difference in your attempt to maintain a healthy weight through this stressful time of year. Don’t neglect your time in the gym or with your Wii!
  •  Don’t skip meals. If you are hungry you’re less likely to make healthy choices.  Don’t give up favorite foods or deprive yourself completely. Moderate consumption is the key. If you will be attending a party, don’t avoid eating during the day. You’re more likely to over eat.  Instead, before you leave home, eat something light and drink plenty of water on the day of the party.
  • Bring a healthy dish. Bring a healthy dish to a party. The host and other guests may appreciate veggie crudités with a low fat dip.
  • Watch your beverage intake. Alcoholic beverages add calories and impede your ability to burn fat when you are exercising.
  • Be good to you. If the holidays make you feel lonely or depressed do not soothe yourself with food.  Instead listen to music, get a massage, manicure, pedicure, or facial.
  •  Eat before you shop. Whether you’re headed to the mall or to the grocery store, eat something healthy first and always bring a bottle of water to sip on too. One of the signs of dehydration is hunger. Food courts are rarely a good place to find healthy foods.
  •  Remember portion control. Watch your portion sizes at holiday meals.  A portion of meat should be about the size of your palm.  Stuffing and potato dishes should be about the size of your fist. Try and cut back on going back for a second serving at holiday meals.  Eat slowly, eat veggies, salad, drink plenty of water and just enjoy the company at the table.