You all know how we do during the holiday season!  Grandma’s sweet potato pie, Ma’s mac and cheese, Auntie’s potato salad! Have mercy!  The holidays are a glorious foodfest of good eats for sure but the feasts and parties can certainly tax the arteries and strain the waistline. As a matter of fact, the average American will put on an extra six pounds from chowing down on holiday food.

Well, you don’t need to deprive yourself by just sticking to ho-hum foods or take your treats with a huge heap of guilt. Instead, why not eat smart during the holidays so that you don’t have to pay for your sins later?

Use strategies to avoid overeating. An old tried and true dieting trick is to use a smaller plate to avoid piling on food. Try filling your plate with veggies and green salads before hitting the calorie-ladened entrees and desserts. Eat slowly and savor every single bite that enters your mouth.  Before you go back for seconds, try waiting at least 10 minutes to see if you really want to go that route. It actually takes a few minutes for your stomach to receive an “I’m getting full” signal from your brain. While you wait, try drinking some water, then recheck your hunger. Bet you will pass on those seconds!

Don’t attend a food gathering in starvation mode.  Try a little quality noshing before you get to your food feast. Nibble on pre-gathering hunger-cutters by combining complex carbs with protein and unsaturated fat, try apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and lowfat cheese on whole-wheat pita bread.

Watch those sweets! The healthiest sweets are fruit, Jell-O, pudding, shortbread cookies, ginger snaps or even angel food cake. If you must have a dessert with frosting, butter cream, cream cheese, or chocolate chips, try limiting yourself to a small cookie or a thin slice of cake.

Getting your drink on can be fattening.  Limit yourself to one or two drinks of alcohol like a light beer or wine. Steer clear of the eggnog because it is super high in calories. You can always enjoy guiltless drinks like water, unsweetened ice tea, coffee or herbal tea. Alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat, so never drink on an empty stomach.

Just say “No!” When family or friends try to pile on the eats on your plate, just politely say “No, thank you!” Mention that you are full and can’t eat another bite. Stick to your guns and don’t let your guard down.

Don’t stand near the buffet table.  At a party, being near the buffet table makes it easy to mindlessly reach for food as you chat. If you know you are prone to recreational eating, pop a mint or a stick of gum so you won’t keep reaching for the goodies. In this case, it is a good thing to turn your back on temptation!

Give in to a craving or two. It’s OK to acknowledge a few cravings instead of pushing them away completely. Forbidding yourself a specific food or food group during the holiday season may only make it more attractive. Still want more of that sweet potato pie after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favorite holiday activity, like opening presents, or watching Christmas movies. Research shows that distracting yourself with just about any activity can reduce the intensity of the food you crave.

The holidays are supposed to be an enjoyable time of the year and stressing out about your weight shoud not be a priority. Just remember to exercise, practice self-care and do allow yourself to eat a few foods in moderation that make you happy.