It’s that time of year again when family and friends gather to eat, drink and be merry. The holidays are a time of joy and happiness, but may also lead to the dreaded thought of holiday weight gain. Whether you are at a large family get together, an office party or just gathering with a few friends, there is almost always plenty of food to go around. Instead of being petrified of over doing it at the buffet or with Aunt Karen’s apple pie, here are a few simple tips to help you navigate holiday eating.

1)   Don’t crash diet before the holidays. Trying to lose weight before the holidays to make up for possible weight gain will likely lead to more weight gain. Keep your eating habits consistent.

2)   Avoid skipping meals. Skipping meals to allow yourself to eat what you want at the party gathering will only lead you to over eating. Instead, try to stay on track with your normal eating patterns or have a snack before heading over to your cousin’s house.

3)   Plan what you would like to have and then plate your food. Once at the gathering, take a look around at the food being served, especially if there is a buffet. Plan what you would like to have and then plate your food. It may be tempting, but you don’t have to try everything!

4)   Be mindful when snacking. Holidays usually lead to an increase in candy, cookies and chocolates around the house. It is okay to taste test these treats, but also include other snacks such as veggies, fruits or a handful of nuts.

5)   Enjoy your food. It is important to include some of your favorite foods, but don’t forget to make sure you keep your eating balanced. To maintain this balance, make sure to include proteins, fats, grains, fruits and veggies. Keep in mind, there will likely be plenty of leftovers and you can always have another slice of that pumpkin pie tomorrow.

6)   Plan ahead. If you are unsure of what will be served and you have food allergies, are a picky eater or just have difficulty with certain foods, offering to bring a special dish can ensure that you have something that works for you. This also helps out the host!

7)    It’s okay to say “No.” You may feel pressured by a host  to try their dish. If you are already satisfied or already have a plateful of food, practice saying, “No, thank you.” If you are afraid of offending them, you can say, “I am all set at this point, but this stuffing is delicious.” Complimenting the person on other dishes can help decrease their focus on what they are pushing you to try.

8)    Limit alcohol.  Alcoholic beverages can increase your cravings for food. Alcohol stimulates appetite and you may be less aware of how hungry or full you are.

9)    Don’t dwell on “mistakes.” There is always a possibility that you may eat or drink a little more than planned or are just feeling extra full. Move on and don’t allow this to stress you out. Reach out to someone or join in on an activity to stay distracted.

10)  Don’t forget to engage in other activities that do not involve food. Going for a walk or playing a board game can help get you away from the buffet table and prevent you from picking at foods after you are already satisfied.

And above all, remember to have fun! Being with friends or family and taking pleasure in holiday meals and festivities is a part of a healthy lifestyle too.

About the author: Corrinne Archibald RD, LDN, earned her BS in Dietetics from the University of Northern Colorado in 2006. She continued on to complete her dietetic internship through Simmons College in 2007. In May of 2007, she began working on Walden’s Alcott and Thoreau Units.  Within the next two years, she began working in Walden’s Residential program along with the Alcott unit. She then progressed to primarily adult Residential and when the adolescent residential and partial hospitalization program opened, took over the nutrition component in these programs as well. Corrine now works in our Worcester partial hospitalization program and binge-eating disorder intensive outpatient program part time and is also an assistant volleyball coach at College of the Holy Cross. She is married and has a fun-loving lab named Finn.