The holiday season does NOT have to mean weight gain season! Being Thanksgiving this week, the holidays are officially upon us!

For some of us, this conjures up thoughts of family and festivities. For others, stress and rushing around come to mind. For too many people, the worry of unwanted weight gain sets in – the parties, the food, the baking, the cookies, the pies, the alcohol – all of it!

Well, worry no more!

There are several tips you can follow to get you through the holidays without tipping the scale in the wrong direction. There are many things I can recommend, but I’ll try to stick to real-life tips that still allow you to eat, drink and be merry!

Don’t Skip Meals

First and foremost, avoid skipping meals in order to “save up calories for the party at night” – not a good plan! Chances are, you will be so hungry that you will overeat and not make the best choices at the party.  Be sure to eat breakfast, lunch, and a small snack during the day as you usually do so that you can be better equipped to stay in control at night

Move Away From The Food

Try not to linger around the buffet or food table; when we mingle and stand around talking if there is food within reach, many of us tend to snack on the food without even realizing it. This mindless eating can really add up to a lot by the end of the night

Bring a Healthy Dish

Get in the habit of bringing a ‘safe dish’ with you. Most of us don’t like to go to parties empty-handed. If you’re already bringing something, why not bring a healthy (but still yummy) something? This way, if there aren’t many – or any! – healthy choices, you can at least enjoy what you brought

Plan Your Plate

Instead of adding a little of everything as you proceed through a buffet line, try to take a look at all the food offerings before adding anything to your plate. Determine which foods you’d love to have, which you might like to sample, and which you can do without. There’s no need to waste calories on foods you don’t necessarily enjoy. Put on your plate the foods that you’d love to have, watch the portions, then savor and enjoy!

Drink Light

Be careful not to drink too many calories. Many cocktails are made with sweet juices which contain lots of sugar and calories. Beer is very filling and tends to show up around the waistline. Better choices include spiked seltzer, wine spritzer, vodka soda or, for a festive flair, try prosecco with a splash of cranberry juice!

Portion Control

Pay attention to the distribution of foods on your plate. Aim for half the plate to be filled with vegetables, a quarter filled with protein, and a quarter carbs. Try to fill up on the vegetables and protein first, saving the carbs for last. By the time you get to the carbs, gage your hunger or fullness level and you may find that you’ve had enough and you don’t need to finish what is left on your plate. Being mindful and listening to your body will help you feel better throughout the season!

Stay Active

Be sure to continue with your exercise routine. The holidays tend to get very busy and oftentimes exercise is what gets dropped .Exercising will help you burn off some of the extra holiday calories you’re taking in and will help to relieve some of the stress that seems to come along with the holiday season.

Focus On The Holiday Spirit!

Lastly, try to remember what the holidays are all about; we’re gathering with family and friends to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company. Yes, there will be food and drink, but that shouldn’t be the main focus. Sit next to someone you enjoy and focus on connecting with them and others around you!

Cheers to a happy and healthy holiday season!

Linda Nikolakopoulos is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist, serving Boston’s North Shore area. She has 20 years experience in the field of nutrition and has an expertise in weight loss and healthy weight management. She has a non-diet approach and helps clients develop healthy eating habits and a better relationship with food, all while obtaining their weight and healthy lifestyle goals. She sees clients in her Peabody and Danvers offices.