Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Use these good-for-you ideas from our food director/registered dietitian to make better party-food decisions (without depriving yourself of anything!) this season.

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If you look forward to the Christmas cookies your coworker bakes once a year, by all means, blow your calories on them. It's about making conscious choices, not mindlessly munching.

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Have you ever had a full plate of food in front of you, only to look down a few minutes later to find it gone? In all likelihood, you ate while you were talking to someone or doing something else, like watching TV, which leads to overeating. So try to really concentrate. Appreciate how the food looks before you put it in your mouth.

Take the time to chew every bite. Identify the flavors and textures. Stop and savor between bites. You will eat less without feeling deprived.

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Proper zzz's are a key factor in weight management, yet holiday obligations often stand in the way of a nice eight-hour stretch. Science has shown that how much you snooze, and the quality of your rest, may affect hormonal activity that boosts your appetite.

On nights when you aren't at a party until the wee hours, turn in early. If you are out late, try to nap the next day when your energy flags, instead of using a big snack as a pick-me-up.

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The festive one-two punch of alcohol and salty foods means you need to down lots of H2O to stay hydrated. Don't use alcohol to quench your thirst; have a glass of water or seltzer before your wine or cocktail and another glass in between libations.

This will make it easier to limit alcoholic drinks to two per night—you'll feel better and slimmer in the morning.

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If you equate the holidays with baking, fine. Just adjust your favorites to be a bit lighter. Cut sugar by a third, switch in some whole wheat flour for white, and sub applesauce or prune puree for butter and oil. If you like giving home-baked gifts, wrap them up ASAP so you're not tempted to help yourself.

Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.