These expert eating strategies will help you keep holiday food cravings under control.

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Be Prepared

Don't skip meals to “save up” for the big event. Eat a simple protein-carb combo, like yogurt with a piece of fruit or string cheese with whole-grain crackers before you go, says Keri Gans, R.D., C.D.N., a New York-based dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet (Gallery, 2011).

Bring a healthy dish

Arrive with a tray of red and green bell pepper slices with nonfat yogurt dipping sauce, suggests Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., a Nashville-based nutritionist and food blogger.

Plan ahead

If you have diabetes, check with your doctor about how to work holiday treats into your meal plan. It may mean more exercise or an increase in insulin dosage, for instance.

Beat the buffet

Do a “drive by”

“Peruse the entire buffet table, then home in on the healthiest options,” suggests Gans.

Fill a small plate, then step away

Use a salad or dessert plate. Studies show that using bigger plates makes you eat more. When you’ve filled your plate, keep the buffet table out of arm’s reach.

Save your toothpicks!

Keep a reminder of how much you’ve already eaten, such as toothpicks from hors-d’ouevres, suggests Lindsey Toth, R.D., a Chicago-based dietitian.

Make simple choices

Whole foods like shrimp, chicken and fresh fruits and veggies are healthiest because you know they’re not loaded with salt, sugar or added fat, says Cynthia Sass, R.D., M.P.H, a New York-based dietitian and author of Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches (Harper One, 2011).

Be a social butterfly

“Remind yourself that the holidays are about family and friends—great food is a bonus,” says Toth.

Drink to your health

Enjoy one or two drinks

If you’re going to consume alcoholic beverages, limit yourself to one or two drinks. The heart-health benefits of alcohol end at one drink per day for women and two for men.

Drink water

“Drink one glass of water after every alcoholic beverage,” says Sass. Also, downing eight cups per day can help you control food cravings.

Go low-cal with cocktails

Choose cocktails that are low in added sugar, such as gin or vodka with soda water and a splash of lime juice, suggests Toth.

Master the Main Course

Choose turkey

A three-ounce serving of white meat turkey is low in fat and high in protein.

Eat with a small group

Believe it or not, eating with more than six people can lead to scarfing 76 percent more, says a recent study. Settle down with a few people who share your health goals.

Do a mid-meal check

After you’ve eaten about half your main course, pause for at least five minutes to see if you’re still hungry, suggests Bedwell.

Go Out on a High Note

Take a walk

Instead of waiting around for dessert, ask a friend to join you for a walk after the feast.

Join the clean-up crew

Offer to help clean up after a meal—it’ll get you up and moving and help you avoid snacking.

Don’t take goodies home

“Never leave with leftovers,” says Gans. “It’s my number-one rule! You can be polite and gracious, but stand firm. It’s okay to say no!”

Read more Get back on track with healthy eating

From our sister publication, Diabetes Focus (Winter 2011)

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Published: 14 Oct 2011

Last Modified: 15 Nov 2012