5 Ways to Stay Healthy Over the Holidays

May your meals be merry and light

Family eating a holiday meal

Holiday “eating days” can make you feel guilty for overdoing it on tempting foods, but a little indulgence is okay, if done strategically. “Be aware that you don't need to celebrate with large amounts of food,” says Nicole Avena, Ph.D., research neuroscientist and author of "Why Diets Fail." After all, get-togethers aren’t just about eating delicious foods—they're also about being in good company! “We are faced with lots of gatherings and festivities this time of year, so it is important that you don't overdo it at all of them. If you have a lot of options and want to try different things, be aware of the portion sizes and opt for smaller bites so that you can sample more things,” Avena says.

Try these tips to indulge healthily and live actively this season:

Eat (Lighter) Festive Foods
Who says holiday foods have to be heavy? Choose chestnuts over salted nut mixes and toffee bark over gooey fudge cake for low-calorie, seasonal options.

Walk Around After Dinner
Bundle up for a quick after-dinner walk to aid digestion. Bonus points if you stroll through a festive neighborhood.

Use a Seasonal Action Plan
If you’re guilty of baking dozens of cookie batches or grazing by the highest-calorie dips at the party, practice these holiday eating strategies from a dietitian.

Size Up Healthy Portions
Professional chefs may know how to “eyeball” portion sizes, but we laypersons could use a hand. Enlist a tennis ball or deck of cards to gauge smart portions.

Be Sensible About Buffets
Beat the buffet! Use vegetables as a base, then fill up on fruit—not the first food you see. And never arrive famished to a family-style meal.

The Bottom Line
Using mindful eating strategies and moving more is your key to beating holiday bloat, and transitioning into a healthy new year. “Moderation is key. Indulging for one day won't completely derail your diet plans, but don't let indulging roll through the entire holiday season,” Avena says.