The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other winter holidays were long ago dubbed as “the most wonderful time of the year”. So, who wants to spend these cheerful days counting calories and obsessing about waistlines? Nobody!

Unfortunately, most of us go overboard in the other direction—we don’t give a second thought to what we eat during the holidays. So let’s find a happy medium. You can use these five tips to sensibly enjoy all the culinary delights that the holiday season offers!

1. Reframe Your Thinking
The holiday season is awash with emotions. You may feel full of love when friends and family surround the holiday dinner table. You may feel nervous if your favorite football team is playing in a Thanksgiving Day nail-biter. If you’ve been dieting all year-round, you might even approach holiday parties with dread.

Bottom line: don’t let your emotions have power over your eating habits. As you’re eating, think about your food choices. Stop when you’re full and don’t give in to mindless munching.

2. Eat Before You Party
Never go to a Christmas party on an empty stomach. If your tummy is already grumbling when you arrive, you’re more likely to overeat.

It’s best to fill up with a snack of protein and carbs while you’re still at home. Try Greek yogurt, a handful of nuts, and a piece of fruit.

3. Stick With What You Love
Have you ever eaten something just because it was there, staring you in the face? Don’t feel obligated to take a serving of every dish. If you don’t like turkey, just keep passing the plate. If you try a new dip, but it doesn’t live up to your expectations, leave it on your plate to throw away later.

For the foods you do love, indulge a little. There’s no harm in having a sugar cookie or a spoonful of gravy. But, beware of portion sizes and try not to go overboard.

4. Dial Back The Booze
Some drinks can pack on just as many calories as a piece of Grandma’s apple pie. One serving of alcoholic egg nog will give you 340 calories. A white Russian can contain more than 250 calories per glass.

A smarter choice is a simple mixed drink that can be diluted—like a vodka and club soda or a diet soda with whiskey. If you prefer wine, go with red. A typical glass only has 80 calories.

5. Beware of Calorie Kings
Some popular holiday delights are just plain bad. Consider skipping these items or trading them for a lower-calorie alternative. If they’re on your list of Thanksgiving or Christmas favorites, try to stick to a three-bite rule. That will be just enough to treat yourself without the risk of busting your buttons.
• Turkey with the skin on is loaded with saturated fat. Instead, try to grab a piece of skinless white meat.
• If you’re looking for a healthy source of protein, go with smoked salmon (100 calories per serving) or shrimp cocktail (109 calories per serving).
• When it comes to potatoes, skip the dishes that look to be loaded with butter, cream, or sugar. A baked potato or sweet potato is your best option.
• Dessert can be tricky. Pecan pie typically packs 500 calories. If you’re dying for a slice, try pumpkin. It’s a bit lower in calories and the pumpkin is actually healthy. Better yet, have a candy cane or a few small pieces of Christmas chocolate.

Few people make it through Thanksgiving or Christmas without at least one, over-the-top eating experience. Don’t get discouraged if you overdo it at a party. Plan for some extra exercise and try to prepare better next time.

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