Once Halloween has passed, all thoughts turn to the upcoming holiday season. While many of us joyfully look forward to spending time with family and friends during the holidays, they can also be sources of stress when you are trying to stick to a weight loss program. Learn how to avoid a dietary setback and tackle the holidays with confidence.

Try to Influence the Menu

If your family is accustomed to fat-laden, carb-heavy meals topped off by a few fat slices of pie, it might be time to rethink how you approach the holidays. Holiday foods can be tweaked to be diet-friendly while still feeling indulgent. If you’re hosting, take charge of the meal plan to make some adjustments. For example, you can swap whole-wheat bread for white bread in your favorite stuffing recipe, use half the butter and lowfat milk when making mashed potatoes, and skip the brown sugar and marshmallow topping in favor of a simpler sweet potato dish. Add a couple of seasonal salads, and you’ve got yourself a festive meal that doesn’t derail your diet.

Things can be a little trickier when you’re not hosting, because you cannot dictate the menu. However, you can volunteer to bring a couple of side dishes or coordinate with fellow health-oriented family members to provide additional options for those looking for lighter fare.

Watch Your Portion Sizes

One of the biggest mistakes in holiday dinners is failing to adjust your portion sizes. When there is a feast laid out in front of you, even a little of this and a little of that can add up to a huge mound of food on your place. When you’re filling your plate, start by taking half of what you would normally consider a typical portion. With so many options in front of you, you probably won’t even miss the extra stuffing or the second piece of pie.

Slow Down and Be Mindful

When the conversation is flowing, you may found that you worked your way through an entire serving of mashed potatoes without even realizing it. This holiday season, make a conscious effort to be more mindful of your eating. Start by choosing your absolute must-have holiday favorites in reasonable portions. Then, focus on savoring every bit. Take your time to eat slowly, allowing yourself to enjoy the food and the company. You’ll likely find that you’re not even hungry for seconds.

Watch Your Beverage Consumption

We often keep an eagle eye on our dinner plates, careful not to pour too much gravy or reach for that extra serving of turkey. Somehow, this vigilance doesn’t always extend to our drinking glasses. Be mindful of your beverage consumption during holiday meals. Rather than having an entire glass of eggnog, have a couple of sips or enjoy an alternative beverage such as a warm spiced cider instead. Steering clear of alcoholic beverages and sipping sparkling water or juice can help you stay on track.

Don’t “Bank” Your Calories

When you know the holiday party is coming up this evening, it might be tempting to “save” your calories by eating a minuscule breakfast and lunch so that you can indulge later. Although it may seem like a good idea in theory, this plan can quickly backfire. Foregoing a nutritious breakfast and lunch will cause you to be ravenous by the time dinner rolls around. You’ll likely end up eating way more than you intended, far exceeding the calories you “saved” by skimping earlier in the day. Instead, focus on eating healthy, protein- and fiber-rich foods that will make you feel full for longer, preventing cravings from striking.

It Okay to Indulge a Little!

Perhaps the biggest mistake dieters make during the holiday season is focusing obsessively on food and compliance with your weight loss program. This year, give yourself permission to step back a little. Being on a diet doesn’t mean you need to stick to bland, tasteless options while foregoing all delicious holiday treats. In fact, the holidays are a great time to indulge a little. Just make sure you’re indulging in a way that is responsible. Small portions, mindful eating practices, and making treats an occasional part (rather than a daily part) of the holiday season will give you a boost of joy without throwing off your diet momentum.

If You Slip up, It’s Okay

​season, use it as an opportunity to practice a little self compassion. Gaining a couple of extra pounds during the holidays may not have been in your plan, but it doesn’t make you a worthless person or a failure. It simply makes you human.

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