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Eventful Eating

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Use these tips to navigate temptation through the holidays.

eatsmarteventfuleatingWith Thanksgiving dinner tucked snugly under our belts and holiday buffets looming, we’re well into the time of year when it’s most challenging to eat healthy.

As alluring as they may be, don’t let Christmas cookies, latkes or eggnog throw off your nutrition goals! With a bit of mental preparation and a few quick tips from our registered dietitian, Julie Fortenberry, you can navigate this season’s packed social calendar with ease.

KNOW YOURSELF “Some people can have a little bit of something at a holiday event and have good self-control,” Fortenberry says. “Some people really can’t just have a little bit — and they end up eating way too much. Know if you have enough self-control to enjoy a small bite, or if you need to say no completely.”

PICK YOUR BATTLES You might want a slice of pecan pie, a helping of mashed potatoes and a glass of rum punch. But if you’re watching your weight, you don’t want the calories from all three. “I tell people to create a category with carbs, sweets and alcohol,” Fortenberry says. “Don’t spend your calories on something you can have anytime.”

SIP SMART Mixers are to blame for most cocktails’ calorie count, especially during the holidays — spiked eggnog, anyone? “I’m not a fan of diet sodas, but something like sparkling water, or with water and lime, is a good alternative,” Fortenberry says. “Stay away from the daiquiris and high-sugar mixers.”

PRACTICE RESTRAINT “Monitor your portions,” Fortenberry says. “Just because it’s your day of freedom, don’t overdo it.” She points out that this time of year is a marathon, not a sprint. “It’s not just one day, so map it out and have a plan.”

BE ACCOUNTABLE Been sharing your weight loss or nutrition goals with friends? Good. This is an easy strategy to help you stay on track in the face of holiday temptation. “Tell a friend, ‘Don’t let me eat five pieces of cake,’” Fortenberry says. “Having accountability at an event puts the pressure on you to do well.”

DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL Sometimes, you might try to modify your favorite recipes to make them healthier. Fortenberry doesn’t bother. “Don’t get caught up in making a recipe healthy — enjoy a little bit of the real thing,” she says. “If you try to make over your mom’s pie, you’re going to be disappointed and end up eating more of something else.”

DRESS UP Associating your nutrition or weight loss aims with a certain garment can be a form of personal accountability. “That’s the vanity side of it,” Fortenberry says. “By the time you get in that dress, you don’t want to get to the party and stuff yourself and feel bloated.”

DON’T QUIT WHEN YOU SLIP Finally, take it easy on yourself. Remember that eating well isn’t an all-or-nothing endeavor. “This time of year is so addictive, because there is so much high-sugar food and so many high-calorie offenders,” Fortenberry says. “It’s hard to get back on track. No matter how ‘off’ you are at an event, do not let it drag out. Get back on track as soon as possible.”