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With the holiday season starting at Thanksgiving and going through New Year’s Day, eating right can be a challenge at this time of year. (For candy-lovers, the holidays may officially begin as early as Halloween!) With so many events and activities centered around or including food, it is easy to overeat. Often, the goodies surrounding the holidays are loaded with sugar, fat and calories, from cheeseballs to Christmas cookies to eggnog.

It’s natural to want to indulge during special holidays, but when this becomes a six-week splurge, there are negative repercussions for your body and weight. If you’ve been working out all year and following a nutritious diet, don’t sabotage your progress with consistent overeating. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy holiday foods, but be smart about how much and what you eat – particularly when you are distracted at parties and family gatherings.

Consider the following recommendations when it comes to best managing your diet during the holidays, and you’ll be glad you did when the season is over:

  1. Eat regular meals – Don’t skip breakfast and lunch in anticipation of a special dinner, or chances are that you will overeat big-time. It’s best to eat healthy meals throughout the day – with smaller portions if you want to treat yourself at dinner – to maintain your blood sugar and metabolism. When you skip meals, your metabolism slows and you can become ravenous, where you’re less likely to make good choices. So don’t go to the mall on an empty stomach, or it will be difficult to resist the cinnamon rolls!
  2. Keep snacks handy – Resist all of the treats in the office or at home by having go-to nutritious snacks ready, such as cut veggies and hummus, low-fat cheese sticks, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit or a healthy granola bar. Keep items at work, in your car or in your purse to stay on track.
  3. Have a plan – Take a lap around the buffet first to identify what you want instead of automatically loading up your plate. Choose fresh veggies and fruits when available. Look at the appetizers being passed rather than mindlessly grabbing what comes your way. Keep portions small, and resist going back for seconds. At the dinner table, slow down to savor each bite; it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. Limit alcoholic beverages, and alternate caloric drinks with water or sparkling mineral water to control consumption.
  4. Move around – Don’t stand next to the buffet or plant yourself in front of the table of appetizers, or it will be easy to mindlessly munch. Move away from the food and focus on conversations, interacting with others or investigating new presents. Stay out of the kitchen if you tend to sample everything, and offer to clean up instead. Go for walk or take the kids out to play in the snow to enjoy some fresh air.
  5. Limit leftovers – Give food to others, bring it to work and freeze extra portions so that you’re not on overload for days.
  6. Hydrate – Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and help limit extra calories. Sometimes we think we are hungry when we’re really just thirsty. Keep a bottle at work, in the car and definitely in your gym bag!
  7. Sleep – Lack of sleep not only leaves you fatigued and easily stressed, but can impact hormone levels that help regulate appetite. Do your best to stay on a schedule of going to sleep and waking at roughly the same time when possible, and grab a quick catnap to make up for later nights.