The Holiday Season is upon us, which means the Holiday Party season is also upon us. It’s a difficult time of year to stay healthy as there’s less time to get to the gym, and let’s face it, no one goes to a holiday party excited about the veggie tray. With that in mind, the J’s registered dietitian Jamie Livaudais has put together a few tips that will help you make healthier decisions while you’re celebrating with your friends and family this winter.

If you’re looking for even more dietary insight, be sure to book a Nutrition Coaching session with Jamie, where she can help you come up with an individualized nutrition plan. Not sure that’s for you? Not a problem. You can give it a trial-run with a free 20-minute consultation.

To schedule your session or for pricing information, contact Jamie Livaudais, 314-442-3452.

1. Put in on a plate

Oftentimes at a holiday party, you’re welcome not only by your friends and family, but also by a large spread of hors d’oeuvres and appetizers. It becomes dangerously easy to overindulge on these finger foods while you’re standing around, catching up with your loved ones. Instead of camping out in front of the table, grab a plate! It’s easier to portion your food responsibly by putting your favorite snacks on a plate, and it’s easier to notice just how much food you’re chowing down on before the main course even starts.

Also be mindful of the signals your body is sending. Before going in for a second helping, check in with what your body is telling you. Ask yourself: Am I still hungry or does the food just look good? Do I still have a full dinner to eat later? Do I want to save room for dessert? Healthy eating habits don’t necessarily mean you can’t eat the good stuff, it just means you need to eat healthy portions, and putting it on a plate can help you do that.

2. Think ahead

Going to a party hungry is like going to the grocery store hungry: you’re bound to make some questionable decisions. You don’t want to fill up on too much of the “good tasting” stuff or avoid the “good for you” stuff. If possible, have regular meals and snacks every three to four hours before the holiday meal to keep blood sugar stable and the cravings at bay. Snacks and meals such as cheese and crackers, or an apple with peanut butter, have carbohydrates with protein and/or fats and will be both satisfying and filling.

3. Focus on the company more than the food

Holiday feasts are great and delicious, but the true “main course” is the conversation and company of the people you love. Try grabbing your food and then moving away from the serving table. It’s hard to be a good conversationalist if you’re being constantly distracted by all the delicious food. Additionally, if you’re preoccupied with telling or listening to a story, you’re less likely to mindlessly shovel that second slice of pie into your mouth.

4. Fill up on the “good for you” stuff

If you’re going to pig out, it’s best to do it with the healthy stuff. Vegetables are always a good idea, not only because they are loaded with vitamins and minerals, but also because they can fill you up without a bunch of empty calories. Most holiday spreads will have vegetables, whether it’s in the form of a veggie tray, side salad, or roasted veggies with yummy toppings. Aim for one third to one half of your plate being vegetables. Another healthy must-have is protein. Turkey or ham usually makes an appearance around the holidays, and it’s a good idea to add some to your plate; that protein can help keep you satisfied and full. The ideal portion of most protein sources is about three to four ounces or about one fourth of your plate. Whatever room you have left on your plate can go to all the good stuff, like sweet potatoes, stuffing, bread, etc. Try to keep these to one quarter or one third of your plate.

5. Drink to enjoyment, not to excess

Alcoholic beverages being offered during the holidays is a given and, if you drink, these can be a big hindrance to your health and fitness goals. There are two big tips I always give for anyone who enjoys a drink but also wants to keep healthy: 1) keep it simple – go for drinks that have fewer ingredients and less sugar, 2) don’t go too hard – have more mixed drinks instead of shots, mix a glass of water in-between your drinks, and try to savor the drinks you do have. One too many eggnogs and your decision-making is going to be questionable, and all of a sudden that second (or third) helping of stuffing isn’t sounding like such a bad idea.

6. Everything in moderation – even moderation

This is the last and most important tip to remember. Enjoy your holidays! Freaking out about food or calories during the holidays will take away from the enjoying the special events and company of family and friends. So if you have more alcohol than you planned or a few too many desserts, don’t beat yourself up over it. Move on and get back on track the next day. Return to your normal eating and exercise routines and try not to compensate by being overly restrictive or exercising as self-punishment. By compensating, you may be setting yourself up for another slip up by getting too restrictive.