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Stay Healthy During the Holidays

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Tips and tricks for sidestepping the healthy-eating obstacles the season throws your way.

The holiday season can be nutty. Between all the concerts, parties, decorating and entertaining, you may not be quite as in tune with what, and how much, you’re eating. Arm yourself with these stay-healthy strategies to maintain—not gain—weight during the holiday season.

The challenge: Hard-to-resist homemade holiday treats.

Stay-healthy strategy: If decadent holiday treats are your downfall, make room in your diet to eat them. Allow yourself one small treat per day—but plan for it by eliminating something else. If it’s too tempting to keep treats in your house, have just one piece of your neighbor’s special sweet bread, and then share the rest with a friend.

The challenge: A decadent buffet spread at your friend’s annual holiday party.

Stay-healthy strategy: Don’t graze. With all the nuts, crackers and cheese, veggies and dip, mindless picking can easily add up to a meal’s worth—or more—of calories and send you way over your calorie budget. Instead, plan to eat one of your three daily meals at the party. And when you do, inspect the offerings first before loading up your plate. Make your first trip for vegetables and salad (bring a veggie tray to share if menu choices are in doubt). And remember that you can get a run-of-the-mill cheese platter any time of year, so if you’re going to splurge, pick your favorite holiday treat and enjoy it fully.

The challenge: You’re eating out a ton.

Stay-healthy strategy: Make a plan. If you don’t think about dinner until, well, dinnertime, you’re likely to end up eating out or bringing takeout home. The problem with that: the meals you get out are typically packed with more calories, carbs and fat than those you’d make at home. So keep healthy staples on hand to whip up a quick dinner: canned beans and tuna, whole-wheat pasta and couscous, frozen veggies and shrimp are all good choices. Or set up meals to be ready when you get home. To that end, two words: Slow. Cooker.

The challenge: You’re reaching for sugary caffeinated drinks when you need a boost.

Stay-healthy strategy: Skip special coffee drinks that may pack several hundred calories (if you order the generous size and opt for whipped cream), and instead go for smarter sips. Try swapping a fully loaded mocha for a skim latte (about 130 calories for 16 ounces), preferably without sugar or syrup. Feel good knowing that you’re getting in a full serving of calcium-rich dairy, and try to save indulgences for after the holiday season, when your eating returns to normal.

The challenge: Forgotten calories.

Stay-healthy strategy: Write down everything you eat—including the chocolate you swiped from the staff kitchen after lunch. Keeping a food diary may seem like a lot of effort, but it empowers you to budget in small treats; for instance, perhaps you eat one holiday cookie instead of that roll with your salad at lunch.

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