9 Tips to Stay Healthy this Holiday Season

by Eleanor Mueller, USA TODAY Network

holiday-banquetStressing about packing on pounds this holiday season? You can eat healthy and stay fit with these tips for keeping the weight off through January.

1. Keep tempting foods out of reach.

Steer clear of high-caloric foods, including holiday goodies.

“If you’re at a party with a lot of food around, a simple strategy to prevent mindless eating is to keep it out of sight and out of arm’s reach,” says Cynthia Sass, registered dietitian and author of S.A.S.S! Yourself Thin. “If it’s not as close to you, you’re not as likely to eat it.”

2. Eat slower.

Sass adds that eating slower has been proven to help the individual pay more attention to their fullness level and “feel more satisfied with a smaller portion.” Two tips are to put your fork down between bites and take your time while eating. It’s not a race!

3. Choose indulgences carefully.

It is important to be selective about what you put on your plate, especially when at a party or dinner.

“Over the holidays people eat food just because it’s there, even if it’s not their favorite, and the next day it’s not worth their pants being tighter,” Sass says.

4. Plan physical activities around meals and exercise however possible.

When you are likely to have a planned post-meal walk scheduled or a game of charades set, you’re less likely to overeat at a meal.

“If you think you’re just going to sit on the couch and watch football after, you’re going to eat more,” she says. Even just standing up and moving to some music counts as physical activity. So, keep moving. And shorter, higher-intensity exercises like spinning, will burn calories quickly while still fitting into tight schedules.

5. Beware of alcohol. It’s empty calories.

Alcohol, Sass says, is an appetite stimulant, making you more likely to eat more or eat things you wouldn’t normally consume because your inhibitions are lowered.

“If you’re going to drink, you need to have something in your stomach to act as a buffer,” she says. Sass recommends a serving of almonds or other nuts before drinking, and a glass of water between each drink to slow your pace.

6. Save room for dessert.

If you just can’t help indulging in dessert, and really during the holidays who can, be “more budget-conscious with starches” with the rest of your meal, Sass recommends.

“Reduce the portion of your starches in your entrée — like mashed potatoes — so you make room for that brownie or piece of pie,” she adds.

7. Wear formfitting clothes.

Elastic waistbands are out this holiday season. Why? Sass says a belt or something formfitting will make you more aware of how full you really are.

8. Avoid sugary drinks. Water is your friend.

Sugary drinks such as eggnog, which pack on calories without leaving you feeling very full, are a no-no. Instead, drink water and unsweetened drinks like ice tea. Vodka tonics or wine work best if you decide to indulge in alcoholic beverages.

9. Get rid of the “all or nothing” mindset.

Moderation is a great mantra for the holiday season.

“Focus on being aware of your choices, because you don’t want to feel like you restricted and missed out, but you don’t want to feel like you indulged in something that wasn’t worth it,” Sass says.