With the list of holiday outings on the calendar since October, this time of year brings families and friends together to celebrate many wonderful traditions. It’s also an opportunity for plenty of socializing, eating, and drinking. It’s also a time many struggle to keep their healthy diet intact. Even the most disciplined people struggle with temptations during the holiday season.

Having a plan in place will help you handle night after night of eating and drinking. Think of your diet as a holiday budget – figure out what foods and drinks are on your must-have, like-to-have and do-I really-need lists. Come up with a strategy to help you manage and enjoy your holiday parties without packing on the pounds. Here are some 10 Top Tips to keep you focused:

  1. Don’t skip meals. You may want to “save your calories” for the big night, but always eat normally on the day of a party. If you get to dinner ravenous, you tend to eat everything in sight. Eat a healthy breakfast, a light lunch and small snack before heading out.
  2. Bring a healthy dish. Trim back on the trimmings. Feel free to go all out with decorating the house, but when it comes to holiday foods, less is more. Go easy when adding butter, sugars and sauces to your recipes. Food can be fun and taste great without all the extras.
  3. Use a smaller plate. A smaller plate can create an optical illusion of having plenty of food, while forcing you to control your portions. If there’s no more room on the plate, there’s no way you can fit on the extra helpings.
  4. Fill up on fiber. Eat your high fiber foods first – snack on a veggie platter, have fruit before dessert. This will take the edge off hunger by absorbing water through the digestive track, giving you the feeling of being fuller.
  5. Eat mindfully. Easier said than done, but it can be done if you plan your time wisely. Wait for at least 30 minutes to start snacking or drinking alcohol. Check out the buffet, weigh your options, prioritize your favorites. Eat when you’re hungry, then stop when you’re full. It takes at least 15 minutes for your brain to realize that your stomach is full, so take it slowly.
  6. If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. Remember when you rummaged through the box of chocolates trying to find the exact one you love? Well, if you take a bite and it’s not your absolute favorite, throw it out. No need to eat those extra calories when you can save them for something better.
  7. Think about your drink. Who couldn’t celebrate at a holiday party without a little eggnog or glass of wine? But with a cup of eggnog being over 340 calories and a 5-ounce glass of wine being over 120 calories, maybe you can. Also, liquids don’t make you feel as full as solid foods, so drinking alcohol throughout the night may have you consuming more calories than you think.
  8. Wear snug clothes and keep your hands busy. You don’t have to squeeze into your skinny jeans, but when you wear snug-fitting attire the chances are you will be more careful about overeating. Holding a glass of sparkling water in your dominant hand can keep it busy enough to avoid reaching for another appetizer.
  9. Talk more, eat less. When you plan a party, there is so much focus on what to serve. Take the emphasis off the food and focus more on the people around you. Catch up with your relatives and play with the children. This will be so fulfilling without being filling.
  10. When in doubt, take a walk. No matter if you are in Syracuse or South Florida, you can always step outside and enjoy a little time away from the party chaos. Take a walk with a friend, catch up on old times and get some exercise at the same time. It will also get you away from the evil temptations of the dessert trays.

We all eat for different reasons – sadness, boredom, celebration. Make your holiday parties more than just about the food and drinks. Enjoy the time with family and friends this season, creating healthy holiday traditions that will last a lifetime. And…you may just get through this holiday season without gaining a pound.