By Michael Williams, RD

The winter holiday season is a time full of family, friends, fun and food. This season is often met with multiple parties, presents and lots of sweets and second helpings. But the holiday season doesn’t have to mean weight gain. With a few simple tips the holiday season can be both happy and healthy.

 Set Realistic Goals

The holidays may not be the best time for weight loss. But don’t let a little holiday indulgence deflate you. So instead of throwing in the towel until the inevitable New Year’s resolutions, try to set small but attainable goals. A goal to maintain your weight or only gain 1-2 pounds is much better than giving in altogether.

 Be Careful with Beverages

Holiday drinks are often heavy in fat and calories. Drinks such as pumpkin spice lattes or eggnog can pack on as much as 350 calories. Instead try a holiday-themed herbal tea such as cinnamon apple spice or gingerbread spice. These teas keep the holiday spirit while containing zero calories. Alcoholic drinks also present a unique risk. First, alcohol is high in calories (7 calories per gram of alcohol!) and drinking too much may lower inhibitions and induce overeating. So when consuming alcohol, first start with a calorie-free, non-alcoholic drink that will satisfy thirst.

 Start Holiday Parties with a Plan

Empty stomachs are soon overfilled. Planning a small, low-calorie meal or snack before a holiday feast can help curb the excessive hunger that lead to overeating. Fresh fruits, vegetables, a small salad or handful of nuts can all significantly stop overconsumption before it starts.

Practice Portion Control

Restricting foods often leads to overeating. So if there is a high-calorie food that is a personal favorite, go ahead a treat yourself to an appropriate size portion. Take your time with these foods. Eating them slower will lead to increased enjoyment and decreased hunger (it takes the body 15-20 minutes to recognize satiety). By selecting all-around smaller portions and eating slowly, you can safely try a little bit of everything without overeating.

 Focus on Friends and Family instead of Food

Start new traditions or activities that are away from the table. Try non-edible projects like making wreaths or decorating the house. Even better, incorporate fun physical activity such as a walking tour of decorated homes or building snowmen!

The holiday season is known for indulgence and overabundance. But outside of the cookies, cakes and pies, there are some really great healthy holiday foods. There are many mixed nuts, fruits and robust winter vegetables that share in the holiday season. When it comes to the not-so-healthy foods, set your sights on smaller portions and slower eating. Finally, no matter what comes your way, focus on having a fun and happy holiday season this year.