Buffet brunches, beer on the beach, carefree barbecues, and sweet festive treats. Holidays, not matter what time of year, bring along so many temptations and opportunities to indulge that it is not surprising that our souvenirs are often much more than party hats and gifts. But it doesn’t have to be this way this year. You can easily dodge common holiday eating traps with the right tools.

Plan Ahead

Whether you are on an all-inclusive vacation package with food at your arms’ reach 24 hours a day, dashing from one office holiday party to another, or just entertaining guests at home, you need to plan ahead if you want to keep your weight loss on track. Chalk out a schedule, including when and where you are likely to eat. If you’re planning an elaborate leisurely lunch, then aim to have a salad for dinner. Or if you’re going to try the eat-all-you-can-eat buffet for dinner, go for a lighter lunch and make sure to fit in some exercise that morning. Common cravings can be thwarted by snacking on fruit or crackers shortly before the lavish meal. Don’t skip meals though. Resisting temptations on a growling stomach is very difficult.

Choose Healthy Detours

The healthy eating rules which you follow at home and through the year remain same, even during holidays. Fill up on fresh fruits and vegetables and base your meals on whole grains Keep the intake of fried and sugary foods to minimum. Though this is a sensible way to maintain weight, when faced with real life situations of an open bar and expansive nibble platters, taking a detour might appear to be an unattainable feat. The strategies which help here are:

  • Sit away from the food: Crossing the entire stretch of room to reach food will stop you from eating mindlessly.
  • Be picky. Every time the appetizer trays hover near you, think, “Is it worth the extra calories?” or “Is it something I’m really going to enjoy and worth breaking my own rules?”
  • Navigate through the entire table to determine which foods deserve a place on your plate. Be careful about the salads. It may seem like you’re having the healthiest option on the table, but they may be drowning in sinful dressings. If the creamy cheesecake with strawberry glaze looks inviting, give chocolate truffles a pass. Or if you have been waited for bacon-wrapped appetizers, just say no to the fried shrimp.

Give Yourself a Chance to be Full

After the first helping, wait for 10-15minutes to let the satiety set in. Chewing gum or drinking water may also help. Still hungry? Go for vegetables dishes or fruit before going back for more calorie-laden food.

Holiday Meal Makeover

A typical holiday meal can mean more than 2500 calories. Given that 3500 calories equals one extra pound of weight, a few over the top meals can easily mean adding on extra pounds. When grocery shopping for a party, keep an eye on the fresh and unprocessed sections. The traditional recipes can be made flavorful and healthy by adopting simple substitutions. Mayo Clinic recommends reducing the amount of sugar by half and enhancing sweetness by adding a bit citrus, vanilla, nutmeg, or cinnamon. Toppings can be fresh or frozen fruits, dips can be homemade using hummus and salsa, and gravies and stuffed dishes can be swapped with steamed and grilled main course items. Corn on the cob, lightly sautéed peas and beans, baked salmon, low fat yogurt, and roasted sweet potatoes are healthy substitutes to traditional calorie dense entrées and casseroles.

Create an Environment for Healthy Eating

Celebrate at a park. Focus on cold cut, veggie platters, baked chips, unsalted trail mix, and fresh fruits. picnic

Drink Smart

It is difficult to resist a few cocktails during holidays. However, remember to avoid those made with liqueur, cream, coconut milk, tonic water, and syrupy fruit purees. Choose cocktails made with lower-cal ingredients like fresh fruit and carbonated mixers. Champagne, light beers, red wine, sparkling water, and single shots of vodka or gin with lime contain fewer calories than your average cocktails. Send food and booze pushers away politely but assertively. Even the best intended comments of loved ones possess the power to derail our fragile will power and sabotage your healthy eating efforts.

Be Active

Holidays and vacations give you the opportunity to be active  if you’re game.  Instead of relaxing in the sun all day, take a stroll and explore your surroundings. A slow walk along the beach will burn approximately 175 calories in half an hour. Try out fun water sports such as water-skiing, windsurfing, or snorkeling. If your family is home for the holidays, plan a game of soccer, football, or frisbee to fill in the time you might be tempted to eat mindlessly.