It's that time of year again when an endless parade of office potlucks, dinner parties and holiday get-togethers make healthy eating seem like an impossible goal.
But it doesn't have to be that way. It's possible to enjoy your favorite holiday foods without packing on the pounds. Here are some tried-and-true strategies for celebrating without overindulging.
■ It's not really about what you eat, but how much you eat. It's OK to have your favorite foods, just keep your portions small.
■ Think about what you're eating before you put it in your mouth. Do you really want it? Is it a special food you can have only at this time of year? This will cut down on "mindless eating."
■ Don't let yourself get overly hungry before a holiday meal or party. Trying to "save up" calories for special occasions usually backfires because you make poorer choices and overeat when you are famished. Try having a light snack beforehand.
■ Don't stand near the food. You are just tempting fate. Get your food, then walk around and mingle.
■ Remember that alcohol increases appetite and contributes extra calories. Opt for low-calorie drinks and save your calories for the food.
■ Be prepared for social pressures and learn the art of saying, "No thank you. I'm full." Don't feel pressured to eat more than you want. Be assertive and know that there are other ways to be a gracious guest.
■ Bring a healthful dish to share. By doing this, you are guaranteed to have at least one healthful food to eat.
■ If you receive a lot of food for the holidays, give it away, serve it at gatherings or freeze it for later.
■ Set small goals for yourself such as having only one drink at a party or leaving some food on your plate. No matter what happens, be forgiving of yourself.