Now that we’re officially in the middle of the holiday season, a few recurring themes come up every year for most of us. Hopefully, some of these include gratitude, giving, and love. Others aren’t always so cheery and might include stress, guilt, obligation and a hard time sticking to your health goals. Needless to say, these are the themes we can all benefit from changing.

Whether the stressors come from family, travel, a history of putting on pounds over the holidays, or a little bit of everything, we want to offer some simple eating strategies you can implement right away to not only survive but thrive during the holidays!

Top 6 Holiday Challenges—and Solutions

You want to celebrate, but not go overboard, when you’re tempted by unhealthy treats. Here are some of the most common situations and how to handle them:

Cocktail Parties

Everyone loves a good holiday party, but celebrating on repeat throughout the month of December can really set you back. Thankfully, there a few easy tricks to try at your next cocktail party.

First and foremost, avoid those sugary cocktails! In fact, stick with cocktails that maybe you don’t love, as you’ll be guaranteed to sip them more slowly. Instead of the punch that goes down like water, go for a vodka with club soda and some fresh lime. Have a glass of water in between every drink.

Party hopping? Make a game plan. If you know dinner will be served at your second party, have water and just one cocktail at your first, so you save your eating for the second. If you have a third party, don’t plan to eat or drink anything other than water there. Popping a Sweet Defeat on the way can make a world of difference in avoiding temptation, and you show up with fresh breath and a mindset of simply enjoying good company.

Holiday Meals and the Dreaded Food Pusher

Celebratory meals with friends and family can definitely be joyous, but they can also be a serious source of stress as far as eating plans go. You’ve probably experienced the dreaded food pusher and know the type—the one at your table who questions and judges you for saying no to a particular dish, seconds, thirds, etc. Consider their motives: often, food pushers are trying to make themselves feel better when they see others making healthy choices. Or maybe they feel offended that you aren’t partaking in the “traditions” of unhealthy holiday meals. Whatever the case may be, when you say no, they push back.

When you respond to them, choose your words carefully. Instead of saying: “I don’t want X food because X food is unhealthy,” or “X food doesn’t fit into my diet,” try saying “X food doesn’t agree with me when I eat it,” or “I have an allergy to X food.” The last example might seem a bit extreme, but is useful in a particularly tough situation.

Food Gifts

Whether you are the giver or receiver, holiday gifts at parties commonly involve food. Try to think outside the box! If you like to give food, go for something healthier that you personally want to eat, especially if you think it will be served at the event. Try a veggie platter or fruit arrangement, for example. If you are the one receiving the cookies, candies, and sugary treats, re-gift them! It’s the perfect opportunity to share with neighbors and friends and get those temptations out of the house.

Hosting Dinners and Bringing to Potlucks

As the host, you obviously have more control over the menu, so plan accordingly. Again, send those not-so-healthy leftovers home with your guests, and keep cute to-go containers on hand to make it easy to pack up. If you’re the guest, bring low-sugar dishes you know you want to eat—that way you’ll have options. Think cauliflower puree (instead of mashed potatoes) or a big salad.

Staying Consistent with Eating and Exercise

Let’s face it: most people tend to skimp on exercise and overload on sweets during the holidays. But this time of year is when the exercise does the most good. Research shows that exercising motivates you to make healthier choices. So you want to try to fit in exercise where you can, doing a workout in the morning if you have an evening event or squeezing in a 10-minute walk at lunchtime.

As far as sweets go, fill your pre-party plates earlier in the day with lots of veggies, protein, and healthy fats to stay satisfied, saving your carbs for later. This also allows for a little intentional indulgence late in the day—and then you can use a Sweet Defeat afterward so you don’t go overboard.

Knowing When to Choose Your Battles

Last but not least, allow yourself to relax and enjoy. Decide where and when you’ll (without guilt) enjoy a cookie or two, share Christmas morning pancakes with the family, or have whatever indulgences you feel are worth it. Eat mindfully and with gratitude, then move on.

From our family to yours, wishing you a joyous and healthy holiday season!