With countless cocktail parties, cookie exchanges, and holiday meals this time of year, even the healthiest eaters can be tempted go overboard. Sure, celebrations are a time to indulge, but you don’t want to wake up kicking yourself for overdoing it the night before. Fortunately with a few tricks up your sleeve, you can prevent total diet derailment—and still enjoy yourself—during the holiday season.
1. Indulge wisely. Allow yourself to enjoy those must-have treats that you look forward to all year long—whether it’s eggnog, mashed potatoes, or pecan pie—but keep in mind there's no need for an all-out binge-fest. "Research shows that the first few bites of a food are the most satisfying," says Elizabeth M. Ward, R.D., author of MyPlate for Moms and a member of Jamba Juice’s Healthy Living Council. "Savor a reasonable yet rewarding amount of the holiday foods you absolutely love, and remember that no single meal will wreck your waistline." [Tweet this tip!]
2. Recover the day after. To overcome that bloated "food hangover" feeling that follows a rich meal, eat a normal breakfast with protein, such as yogurt or eggs, the next morning. The rest of the day, avoid refined carbs, drink lots of water (at least eight to 10 glasses to help flush out the sodium), and fill up on "clean" foods like fruits, veggies, and more protein. "Whatever you do, don’t 'punish' yourself by skipping breakfast—that’ll just set you up to eat even more the next meal," Ward says.
3. Freeze leftovers. Store tempting foods in the freezer to keep them out of sight and out of mind. "If I freeze the rest of the pumpkin pie, I’ll be much less likely to eat it since I’d have to defrost it first," Ward says.
4. Snack smartly. Before holiday parties or while you’re out running errands, have a bite of something so you don’t risk becoming starved. Complex carbs plus protein equals the sweet spot for snacks. Some of Ward's go-tos are a small Jamba Juice smoothie with protein boost, a one-ounce package of nuts, fruit plus a mozzarella stick or Greek yogurt, or a KIND bar.
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5. Double-up on drinks. When you arrive at a party, start with a non-alcoholic drink to quench your thirst. Then have a glass of wine, champagne, or cocktail, but always alternate with zero-calorie liquids such as water or club soda, Ward recommends. You’ll feel much better for it at the end of the night, and the next day.
6. Lie politely. It’s tough to say "no" to your boss or great aunt, so when they offer a treat, tell them thank you and take it. Say it looks delicious, but you’ve just eaten, then wrap it up for later—and if it ends up in the trash, that’s okay!
7. Stand up. At a party or buffet, get one plate, then step away from the food table but stay on your feet—it helps with digestion, makes it harder to keep piling food on your plate, and burns calories, Ward says.
8. Seek out distractions. After a holiday meal, get your mind off the food. Offer to clear the table or help do the dishes. Also try popping in a piece of gum or a breath mint. "It’s like brushing your teeth, so you won't be tempted to ruin your fresh breath with another piece of pecan pie," Ward says. [Click to tweet!]
9. Divide and conquer. There’s no need to defile family recipes by reducing sugar or slashing fatty ingredients. Instead make the real version of your grandmother’s famous Christmas pudding, but cut it into 16 small slices rather than 10 monstrous pieces.
Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter: How do you stay on the track over the holidays?