christmas cookiesThe winter holidays mean different things to different people -- and one of those things is parties. Lots of them. Even if you feel joy as you gaze at a calendar filled with office parties, neighborhood gatherings, and intimate get-togethers with family and friends, you may also feel a little bit of dread. The kind of dread that goes right to your stomach: just like those cookies and cocktails and appetizers will if you're not careful. Diet dread.

It's easy to pack on the pounds during the holidays. Too easy. But here are a few tips to keep your midsection from looking like Santa's by the time New Year's rolls around:

Go easy on the cookies: People love to bake around the holidays: cookies, fruitcakes, homemade fudge, cute cupcakes with holiday designs. You don't have to avoid them completely, but try not to overindulge. Remember those calories (about 50-75 calories a cookie! 300-600 calories a cupcake!) add up fast.

Don't stuff yourself with candy: Sure, everyone loves sticky sweet treats, but you don't have to go overboard: Instead of stuffing giant candy canes into stockings this Christmas, try tucking in an extra non-edible item -- like peppermint lip balm or a holiday-themed toy. And if you celebrate Hanukkah, go light on the gelt.

Don't overdo it on the cocktails:
One word: eggnog. That thickalicious holiday drink is packed with calories (about 350 calories per cup) and carbs and fat. Take a token sip and pour yourself a glass of wine -- or better yet, a glass of seltzer -- instead.

Avoid eating too many fried foods:
You don't want to pass up a plate full of latkes when the time is right, but try to balance your fried food intake with healthy side salads. You'll be happy you did when you step on the scale the next day.

Choose appetizers wisely: It's easy to forget how much we're eating when we're deep in conversation. To keep yourself from unthinkingly shoveling in too many calories while chatting with family and friends, pass up the fried mozzarella sticks and wings and instead reach for the crudite platter.

Get some exercise: Sure, it's cold outside. Maybe even snowy. So what? Bundle up, get out there, and take a walk around the block. Go ice skating. Or grab a shovel and clear the snow off your front walk. One hour of shoveling will burn about 400 calories -- and it will increase your holiday curb appeal!

Find comfort in family: Holiday warmth doesn't come out of the oven. Cheer doesn't arrive in a glass. The important thing about the holidays is not the food and drink you eat, but the time you spend -- and the love you share -- with family and friends.

Are you worried about gaining weight this holiday season?

 

Image via seelensturm/Flickr