It’s the time of year when we all shop too much, drink too much and eat as much as possible. For the next few weeks we’re all held hostage to great food, snacks, desserts and a bit too much alcohol. Eating healthy over the holidays can be difficult. This year, before the holiday season ramps up, put together a game plan. Think about the best ways to stay healthy while spending time with your family and friends. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Avoid skipping meals

While the logic behind this might make sense, skipping meals so that you can eat ravenously later on will only leave you more likely to overindulge. Especially on unhealthy foods. Instead, plan for lighter, healthier meals in the early morning and afternoon. Light dishes might be something that includes salmon, grilled chicken, soups or sandwiches.

Regular and steady eating throughout the day is preferable to swinging between hunger and feeling stuffed.

What a healthy plate looks like

When sitting down for large meals, be strategic about your decisions. Start off with a smaller plate and fill at least 50% with fruits and veggies. These are high in fiber which keeps you fuller for longer. To the rest of your plate, fill about 25% with grains or starches (ie. pasta, potatoes) and the last 25% is reserved for meat such as chicken, fish or meat alternatives.

Eating, drinking and snacking tips

  • Stick to the ‘good’ fats. These are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They’re found in: Salmon, trout, and herring.
  • Eat your calories, don’t drink your calories. Soda, eggnog and fizzy drinks may contain more calories than you think. Where possible, stick to water and fresh fruit juice.
  • Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady.
  • Avoid grazing.
  • Don’t go out with an empty tank. Before setting out for a party or event, eat something so you don’t arrive famished.

Portion control

The holidays should not be about depriving yourself of good food. In fact, the exact opposite is true! Eat some of the treats that are on offer but be mindful of how much you’re eating. One slice of double chocolate cake is good. Three slices? Not so much. This applies to everything that you put on your plate.

  • Avoid taking extra large portion sizes
  • Don’t pile heaps of food on your plate
  • Be mindful of second and third helpings

Drinks on us

Alcohol is one of those items that a lot of us overindulge at this time of year. One drink with lunch, another with dinner, a couple drinks on Christmas day and a few on new year’s eve. It all adds up. Alcohol depletes Vitamin B1 in the body, adds excess stress to the liver and dehydrates you very quickly. In particular, avoid alcohol on an empty stomach.

If you’re entertaining, make it tasty and healthy

If you’re planning a party, make it a potluck. Guests are always happy to bring a dish to an event. To make things interesting, you can ask your guests to bring dishes with a healthier slant. For example, you can ask them to

stick to home-made items like breads, salads, casseroles or sweet potatoes. On average, homemade foods are a lot healthier than store-bought items or their processed counterparts.

By the end of the holiday season, if despite your best efforts you end up putting on a few pounds, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s normal for most people to gain 1-2 pounds during this season. Over the next few weeks just try to stick to a commitment of healthy eating and moderate exercise