‘Tis the season of sweets and eating. It seems to start with the purchase of that first bag of Halloween candy and continue until through Thanksgiving and now into Christmas season.  And who can blame us?  The holiday sweets crush brings on cravings for all the sweet things we’ve worked to keep in moderation up until that point. Then, when we’re good and weak, the onslaught of holiday bingeing begins with decadent holiday desserts and starchy sides, seasonal goodies passed around at parties, all interspersed with well-intentioned neighbors and coworkers dropping off candied this and sugared that.  Before we know it, we’ve set ourselves up for the most cliche of New Year’s resolutions.

healthy holiday eatingBut there are ways to get through this season of food sharing and stay on track with a healthy eating plan, all while enjoying some sweets of the season.

Take advantage of naturally “sweet” winter vegetables! Sweet potatoes, carrots, purple onions, beets and winter squashes all have an inherent sweetness once cooked, and unlike many traditional recipes for these yummy seasonal veggies would suggest, they don’t require a ton of brown sugar or butter to be delicious.  Often just a little coconut or olive oil, some Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper is all that is needed to turn these foods into holiday “comfort foods” that pack a healthy punch.  They’ll help satisfy your sweet tooth while nourishing body and brain and keeping blood sugar in check.

Choose wisely. When filling your plate, go for the protein and vegetable options first, so that when you do get to the starchy sides, there is less room on the plate — and then eat those foods first so there is less room in the belly!  If you have to go back for more of something, you just might think twice.

And speaking of meal enders, save your selection for after you’ve finished the main course.  If you’re already mostly full, you’ll be less likely to take the bigger serving.  And speaking of serving size, remember that on a normal “splurge” day, you probably wouldn’t eat a full helping of pie, cake and banana pudding, so don’t overdo on this one.  Have a taste of several things or a full size piece of one thing.

If possible, steer yourself towards dishes sweetened with natural ingredients like honey or maple syrup versus refined sugar.  If no one in your family cooks that way, include those ingredients in the dish you contribute — healthy recipe makeovers can be found all over —  presenting a side or dessert that is delicious and nutritious.

Do something active after dinner. Go for a walk, suggest a backyard football game or play hide and seek with the little ones — anything to get active for a bit.  Moving around will burn calories and aid in digestion.

Don’t beat yourself up. Occasionally falling off the diet wagon is not going to kill you.  Just don’t use it as an excuse to abandon your healthy eating and exercise plan altogether. It can take much longer to shed excess pounds than it does to put them back on, so just like any other time you’ve overindulged this the year, consider each meal a new chance to recommit to healthy eating. Be grateful for a day spent with family and friends around delicious foods, while also being grateful for healthy lifestyle changes made in 2015.