It may be the season of giving, but for many it turns into the season of gaining. With endless parties, fancy meals, and cookies at every corner, holiday pounds can creep on faster than the decorations go up. But this doesn’t mean you need to be a Scrooge. Here are our tips for keeping up healthy habits during the holidays.

  1. Know before you go. If the invitation doesn’t specify, find out what foods will be served. Appetizers and desserts only during dinner hours? Have a big vegetable salad beforehand to fill you up and prevent overloading on less healthy party foods.
  2. Exercise first. Research shows that walking before a high fat meal can reduce triglyceride levels and improve blood vessel function. Exercise can also curb appetite.
  3. BYON – “Bring your own nutrition,” that is. Offer to bring an appetizer or side so you know there will be a healthy party option that you can feel good about. Try these holiday foods that pack a health punch.
  4. Make it festive. Don’t let the veggie tray become the party pooper. Wow your guests with an eye-catching display like this festive Laurel Rouge Salad made with bright red tomatoes and dark leafy greens.
  5. Swap the swap. Cookie swaps may be festive and fun, but they turn into cookie overload. Throw your friends a healthy curveball by bringing individual baggies of granola tied with seasonal ribbon instead. This also makes a tasty grab bag gift.
  6. Decorate with fruit. Why should candy canes and gum drops get all the glory? Fill jars with kumquats, bowls with pears, and dishes with unsweetened dried fruit for nutritious and colorful edible arrangements.
  7. Lighten up. Holiday meals don’t have to be high calorie. For special brunches serve egg white frittatas with exotic fruit salad and for dinners focus on fresh seasonal vegetables flavored with herbs and spices. By choosing high quality ingredients, dishes will seem indulgent while staying nutritious and light.

Published December 1, 2014