The holiday season is an opportunity to reunite with family, friends and co-workers. We also are tempted to reacquaint ourselves with foods that we normally avoid throughout the year. Champagne, cheesecake, sugar cookies, eggnog, gravies, chutneys, pies and the like are all plentiful on the buffet table at holiday parties. Some people feel that at this time of year it is acceptable to throw caution to the wind and live it up. While it can be healthy to splurge on occasional indulgences, with some small and simple adjustments you can keep dieting off your New Year’s list of resolutions. This can be accomplished with just a little pre-planning and without much sacrifice.

It’s possible to enjoy the holiday season while staying on track with your health. Consider making a conscious effort to incorporate a few simple strategies and some slight cooking modifications into your lifestyle. If it’s not difficult to cut a little fat and some calories from favorite holiday dishes, what would be the reason for not trying it? Most people are concerned about gaining the “holiday five”. Some people will gain a lot more than five pounds over the holidays. Here are some practical tips to help make your holiday a little merrier while keeping yourself light.

Fill up on Healthy Alternatives

Fill up on fiber rich foods during the day and especially before a party. Fiber will keep you feeling full and make goodies less luring when faced with temptations at the table. Make sure to hydrate yourself with water, sparkling water or herbal tea. Hunger is often masked as dehydration and water will help keep you from overeating. It’s also a good idea to dilute alcoholic beverages with water or sparkling water in an effort to reduce calories, and to keep from relaxing your willpower.

Fill your plate with veggies and eat those as an appetizer. Always eat the healthiest foods first so you won’t overeat the richer, more fattening options. Chew each bite at least 20 times to give yourself time to recognize satiety cues, and to make sure you savor every bite. Try to sit down and focus on your meal when eating to avoid being distracted and eating on autopilot.

Stick to your exercise routine, muscle helps to burn calories. It also is great for stress relief, and the holiday often increases our stress levels. Working out will help you feel a sense of accomplishment which uplifts your mood. When you feel better about yourself you will have more strength to avoid temptations. Exercise also helps to increase our energy levels, and we all need more energy during the holidays.

A reduction of saturated fat and calories can pay off when January arrives. Invest in some health conscious cookbooks or find recipes online from sites such as CookingLight.com. Basically, there are three simple methods to revamp your recipes in making them healthier. Use less sugar, less fat, and cut down portion sizes.

Reduce Sugar with Nutritive Sweeteners

You can reduce the amount of processed sugar in a recipe by just reducing the amount, or substituting all or part of the amount, with options such as honey, agave nectar, stevia, and barley malt. Be careful of using artificial sweeteners because many people are very sensitive to the effects and can have allergic reactions.

Usually in baking recipes you can reduce the fatty ingredient by at least half. However, when reducing fat, it is important to replace it with another moist ingredient such as applesauce, olive oil, orange juice, or yogurt.

Reducing your portion size can be done while still feeling satisfied. You can add more fiber into recipes by use whole grain flours instead of white flour. Using fruit purees, such as unsweetened applesauce, in place of oil also helps to increase fiber content. Serve yourself a small sampling of choices when facing a wide range, you are apt to eat less when you put fewer options on your plate.

Balance is the Key

It is important to try to keep a balance during the holidays. Keep up with or increase your exercise routine and schedule other stress free activities such as a massage, pedicure, or listening to a relaxation CD. Allow yourself to enjoy some indulgences here and there, but watch your portions. Chew your food slowly and carefully so you don’t spend the holidays uncomfortably over filled. Making some simple adjustments in your cooking and your life will make the holiday a lot healthier, and happier, for everyone.