'Tis the season for a whirl of holiday parties, dinners and other festivities—and the wonderful array of luscious foods that go along with them. You can enjoy the season's bounty—and emerge on New Year's Day with your waistline intact—when you follow smart strategies like these.
Plan to indulge. Trim calories by eating smaller portions at meals and snacks and working in some extra physical activity a few days before and after holiday events.
Don't leave home on an empty stomach. Skipping meals all day to cut calories before a big holiday dinner or party can backfire if you arrive ravenous and lose control. Have a light snack before you leave home to take the edge off your hunger. A cheese stick and an apple, a small bowl of cereal or half a peanut butter or turkey sandwich will do.
Prioritize your choices. When you're chatting at parties, it's easy to munch several handfuls of tabletop nibbles like nuts or chips—and several hundred calories—before you realize it. Think about spending your calories on special foods such as an unusual selection of cheeses, special chocolate truffles or a sumptuous holiday dessert. If there's a buffet, survey the choices before you start filling your plate. That way, you'll know what's coming up so you can choose your very favorites and bypass the rest.
Savor smaller portions. You can enjoy that mouthwatering mile-high chocolate torte. Just take a slender slice and savor every bite.
Look on the light side. Trim calories and keep the flavor in holiday favorites with ideas like these:
Use "light" versions of cream cheese, evaporated milk, mayonnaise and sour cream in recipes for baked goods, dips and salads. Try fat-free half and half in your coffee—you'll be amazed at the rich taste.
Reduce the amount of nuts in recipes for quick breads and cookies by one-quarter to one-half. Lightly toast the nuts to intensify the flavor and no one will guess you used less. (Note: To toast nuts, place in an ungreased skillet over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently until golden brown. Or place nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350°F 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown.)
Toast the season and trim calories with light eggnog, sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice or a diet soft drink with a twist of lime.
Bring a colorful fruit salad or festive platter of bite-size veggies and lightened-up dip to holiday events.
Fit in physical activity. Regular exercise not only burns calories, it also helps reduce stress that sometimes accompanies the busy holiday season. But give yourself a break if you can't squeeze in your regular exercise class or trip to the gym. Instead, stay on the move by taking an extra walk around the mall, doing your best dance moves at parties or planning a family walk after a big holiday meal.