MITCHELL, S.D.-Afraid of packing on the pounds this holiday season? One dietitian has a simple solution: moderation.

Kat Anundson, a clinical dietitian with Avera Queen of Peace in Mitchell, said during the holidays, people tend to take on unusual habits - such as waiting several hours before eating one large meal - that can be damaging to one's overall health.

Anundson said she most often hears of people waiting all day to eat for a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, and after six hours or longer without eating, the body goes into "starvation mode." The body's metabolism shifts and if one does eat, the body is more likely to hold onto more calories. It also causes the person to be very hungry, which often leads to overeating.

"Waiting until the buffet is ready so you're really hungry and that you get your full enjoyment of the big meal is not the best way to go," Anundson said.

It's an easy fix, Anundson said, and she suggests having a bit of consistency throughout the holiday season. Instead of avoiding meals to save up for one huge plateful, Anundson said to eat regular meals throughout the day.

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But holiday eaters shouldn't worry much, as Anundson said one huge meal doesn't "make or break someone."

"It's the continual pattern that over time can cause damage. Having moderate health patterns, I think, are so much more important than nailing the perfect lifestyle or the perfect diet," she said.

Add a little color to the meal

But fearing excessive weight gain shouldn't take away from the holiday season.

"As a dietitian I'd be more happy with people eating their favorite foods and favorite meal at that celebration, and smaller portions would be great," Anundson said. "I wouldn't say they have to change to healthier foods. Yes, there's better ways to make it, but it's all about lifestyle choices."

Thinking "outside of the box" for part of the meal can also be an option. Anundson said the term "healthy" gets a bad rap, but some foods can also be delicious and healthy. An example might be as simple as adding a bowl of pineapple to the table or a vegetable platter - which adds to the overall color of the meal, too, Anundson said.

"(These foods) are not maybe always your first idea what to serve at Christmas or what to serve at a holiday meal," she said. "But you can still include it and enjoy the meal."

Put away the cell phone

Spending time with loved ones can be healthy.

Yes, hanging out with family might not also be a top priority, but Anundson said it's beneficial to long-term health.

Anundson cited several studies that prove appreciating one another and spending time with loved ones can help folks live longer.

"Sitting down with each other, enjoying a meal and using it to care about each other goes a long way," Anundson said. "So taking away the cell phones could be more helpful to you than anything else at celebrations."