The most wonderful time of the year has officially arrived - and with it will come many chances for all of us to overindulge in the coming weeks. We’ve all fallen victim to the temptations of holiday food at one point or another. And while the food we eat is only one part of healthy living during the holidays, it’s also one of the most important parts.

Health_Holidays_Christmas This is because the holidays provide the perfect opportunity for us to eat thousands of calories more a day than we need. All of this excess food can cause weight gain and even make us feel too tired to exercise - and that can contribute to other health issues if it’s not addressed. Fortunately, a few simple tricks can help you avoid the worst of what the holidays have to offer calorie-wise. We recommend using these 6 tips to make your holiday eating plans a little more waistline-friendly:

  1. Take the time to plan ahead. The same rules of moderation that we use year-round apply during the holidays - but near the end of the year it’s admittedly harder to stick to them. Many people have found, however, that planning out and tracking what they eat helps them stick to the rules of moderation relatively well during the holidays. Don’t just use this trick when you buy groceries for the upcoming week, either! Planning will be particularly helpful when you have plans to attend a holiday party, where food is inevitably going to be a key part of the night. (By the way, meal-planners: skipping a meal to prepare for a party is never a good idea - starving yourself could make you so hungry that you end up eating more than you would have otherwise! We recommend starting your day with a healthy breakfast, enjoying a light lunch, and packing a healthy snack or salad that will hold you over until your party plans begin.)
  2. Be picky! One of the easiest ways to avoid overindulgence is to only eat reasonable amounts of the foods you want to eat the most. And the best way to be selective and to only eat what you truly want is (you guessed it) to plan ahead. So once you get to the party, try examining what is available before you even grab a plate. Exploring what’s available and deciding what you will and won’t eat will allow you to decide in advance which foods you want and which ones aren’t worth it. (By the way, just as starting a regular meal with a salad will help you feel fuller and more satisfied sooner, starting a party with a lower-calorie meal option can help you address your initial cravings and give you the boost you need to control your portions for the rest of the night!)
  3. Don’t be afraid to substitute or cut ingredients. Any time you’re purchasing food or thinking about making or baking something, it can be helpful to make substitutions in your recipes or to cut out unnecessary ingredients altogether. For example, you can use skim-milk instead of whole milk when baking, and you can use low-sodium broths when you’re making soups, to make your dishes healthier. On the other hand, you can also remove ingredients or avoid foods altogether that include lots of extra “trimmings” such as nuts, cheese, creams, sauces, gravy, and so forth. As delicious as these extra are, they also add a lot of calories and unnecessary salts and fats to our diets. To help in your substitution efforts - as well as to help you identify “trimmings” to avoid - we recommend using resources such as recipe sites and Pinterest.
  4. Go easy on the drinks. Eggnog, hot chocolate, apple cider, and even alcoholic beverages are all holiday favorites. They’re also all “empty calorie”, sugary beverages that provide no nutritional value. Limiting the number of drinks you enjoy this season will be one of the easiest ways to cut calories and avoid nutritional “black holes.” Instead, try drinking water or sparkling/flavored water - which will keep you hydrated and even help you feel fuller than you would if you snacked on food all night!
  5. Use smaller plates. Rather than picking up the first plate you see when you get home or when you go to a party, try to find a smaller plate that you can use for your meal or snacks. Using a smaller plate rather than a large one can help your brain and your body feel fuller sooner, and so can help you avoid large amounts of unnecessary calorie and fat-laden foods.
  6. Slow down. Eating more slowly, taking the time to chew and savor flavors, and nibbling on smaller bites gives our brains time to register when we’ve eaten enough. Plus, it allows us to enjoy our food more fully, which can help us feel satisfied sooner. Using this trick during your holiday meals and parties will go a long way in helping you avoid the temptation to overeat!

No one expects perfection from a holiday diet plan. That said, using these tricks can help you guard your waistline and overall health during the holidays. Because of this, we definitely recommend using these tips - along with stress relief and exercise routines - to stay healthy and prepare for the New Year.