Eat, Drink and Be Merry — Without the Guilt

exercise stretch homeIt’s December — time for parties, baked goods, big meals … and, if you’re not careful, growing waistlines. While it’s OK, and somewhat expected, to indulge during the holiday season, it’s easy for things to get out of hand.

Here are some tips on how to avoid common diet pitfalls during the holidays, according to Katie Horstmeyer, RD, LDN, and Christina Rollins, MS, RD, LDN, two of Memorial Medical Center’s registered dietitians.

Pitfall: It’s cold – time for festive specialty coffee drinks, hot cocoa and skipping the gym!
Solution: Instead of partaking in full-calorie beverages, satisfy your craving for something warm and sweet with a mug of sugar-free hot cocoa mixed with skim milk or water for even fewer calories. At the coffee shop, consider ordering your specialty drink with skim milk, sugar-free syrup and no whipped cream. And finally, mix up your workout routine by exercising along to your favorite workout video in the comfort of your home.

Pitfall: The resident baker in your office who keeps bringing in cookies and other treats to sample.
Solution: Moderation is the key! Instead of sampling everything every day, limit yourself to just one treat per day. Also, remember to eat breakfast so that you aren’t as tempted to overindulge on the free goodies at work. On days you know there will be treats at work, pack a lighter lunch — broth-based soup and a salad with light dressing, for example — to allow extra calories for a snack.

Pitfall: Lunches out with friends and co-workers to exchange gifts and celebrate the season.
Solution: Many restaurants offer menus and nutrition information on the web. Check out what’s available beforehand and aim for lighter options like a grilled chicken sandwich or salmon salad. Also, remember to ask for a to-go container when the meal is served so you can take half home to enjoy another day.

Pitfall: The holiday parties and their accompanying appetizers, alcoholic drinks and large buffets.
Solution: Avoid the over-filled plate – instead of stacking food as high as a Christmas tree, spread treats out so you feel overindulgent without overeating. For alcohol, transform your favorite wine into a wine spritzer. Mix 3 ounces of wine with 3 ounces of diet lemon-lime (or club soda) and enjoy two glasses instead of one!

Pitfall: Your annual baking list — butter, sugar and chocolate, oh my!
Solution: Try baking healthier sweets for your family and friends. Visit the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Center at for low-fat alternatives to your favorite recipes.

Pitfall: Santa’s habit of leaving handfuls of candy in your Christmas stocking.
Solution: It’s time to have a heart-to-heart with the man in red! Instead of candy, ask for fresh fruit, granola bars, and even 100-calorie snack packs. Stamps, gas cards and scented lotions are also great stocking stuffers for “big kids.”

Pitfall: The big meal itself – what’s a holiday without a main dish, a plethora of sides and a beautiful spread of pies and cookies?
Solution: Remember, it’s just one day. Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight – rather it is the accumulation of several days of overeating. Use these tips to slim down your eating at luncheons, parties and cookie exchanges prior to the BIG day. When Christmas weekend arrives, you can relax and enjoy yourself. Happy holidays!