Go ahead and splurge! It's the holidays after all. You might think you need to deprive yourself of all of the deliciousness of the season to stay fit and trim, but that's not the case at all. In fact, you can actually enjoy all kinds of holiday food—even the ones you love most at this time of year--without packing on the pounds.
With these tricks below, you can eat what you want and still lose weight during the holidays.
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Have a plan
Before I decide what to enjoy at a holiday party, I always have a game plan in mind for the evening. If not, I'll consume everything in sight and feel horrible the next day. (Trust me, it's happened a number of times in the past.)
The first thing I do is survey the scene and check out the different food and drink options. Then, I come up with a plan for the evening. For instance, if there's an appetizer spread, I'll grab a small plate with the intention of filling it just once with a mix of healthy and fun appetizers. If there is a meal scheduled for later in the evening, I might skip the appetizers (or only have a couple) and just sip on a cocktail until dinnertime, so I don't overdo it on calories before the main event even starts.
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Eat only what you love
When it comes to delicious and often higher-calorie holiday food, I choose wisely and select the foods that I want most. I really love dessert, so I’ll typically skip the appetizers, especially if they’re the same old-same old chips and dip or cheese and crackers, and wait for the dessert spread at the end of the night. The key is not to waste my calories on foods that I don’t love, so I can enjoy what I really want.
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Make tiny swaps during your regular meals
It's not smart to "save" your calories by skipping meals the day before a holiday party because you'll likely go overboard when you're faced with a spread of tempting food. Instead, eat normally and make small calorie reductions during your regular meals-- both before and after special holiday events.
For instance, opt for fresh fruit instead of granola in your yogurt one morning or skip the cheese on your lunchtime sandwich. Those little changes add up, so you’ll have “saved” calories (without starving yourself all day) and then you can splurge a little without wrecking your diet.
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Share the fun stuff
We all know that portion control is key to losing weight, but it's especially important during the holidays. Of course, you don't want to deny yourself your favorite holiday treats, so instead of overdoing it, share your favorite dish with someone else. For instance, I can't be trusted around my mom's apple crisp so I usually recruit my husband or sister to share a plate with me. That way, I get to enjoy my favorite treats of the season, but I don't overindulge either.
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Put a limit on your cocktails before you start drinking
It wouldn’t be the holiday season without enjoying a festive cocktail or two, right? But, unfortunately, most of these drinks are heavy on calories and fat, which isn’t great when you're trying to maintain your healthy habits.
Instead of sipping on cocktails all night long, I like to pick a number at the beginning of the night and then stick to it. It's almost like I give myself a set number of drink tickets, so once I've enjoyed my planned number of cocktails, I'm done drinking for the night. If I don't give myself a limit before I start drinking, it's hard to make healthy decisions when I'm feeling a little buzzed!
This article originally appeared on Health.com.