By Katrina Uzzanti
Head Coach and Owner of MIXFIT Phoenix
and Certified Sports Nutritionist

The holidays are right around the corner and while we all look forward to the festivities and spending time with family, many of us dread what seems to be inevitable weight gain and derailment of our health and fitness routines. From Halloween through the New Year, it seems like we’re in a marathon of non-stop eating and drinking. Since 80 percent of weight management is tied to diet, I’ve outlined some simple tips to help you stay on track, or at least to keep you from doing too much damage at your next holiday party.

1. Drink water
Drinking a glass of water before eating and between cocktails will help you eat less, keep you hydrated, and will dilute the alcohol in your system. Not only will this help your waistline, it will prevent morning-after hangovers that might come with eating or drinking too much.

2. Eat slowly
Take your time and really enjoy your holiday treats. It takes about 10 minutes for our brain to catch up with our stomach. Eating slowly allows us to enjoy food more, and it also reduces the chances of overeating.

3. Eat regularly scheduled meals
Don’t skip meals to “save room” at the holiday feast or party. Skipping meals is a surefire way to guarantee that you’ll overindulge or make less than healthy choices. When we let ourselves get really hungry, eating eventually becomes our top priority. Everything tastes better when we’re hungry, and we usually eat way too fast. In short, skipping meals is a recipe for gluttony, pain, and failure.

4. Grab protein and veggies first
Protein and fiber are filling and satiating. They are usually the most nutritious things on a holiday buffet table. So, grab fruits, vegetables, and protein (e.g. fish, turkey, chicken, or vegetarian proteins like nuts, quinoa, or beans) before you go for their far inferior counterparts.

5. Use small plates and tall, thin glasses
Using smaller plates can psychologically make us feel fuller despite eating less food because the brain associates a full plate with plenty of food. Just like smaller plates require smaller portions, tall, thin glasses mean drinking less as well. As a result, drinking less in one sitting saves a lot of calories as alcohol and high-calorie beverages like eggnog can do quite a bit of dietary damage.

6. Be an educated drinker
Cocktails are staples at nearly all holiday parties. However, not all alcohol is created equal. While a vodka soda is typically around 70-90 calories per serving, the same size glass of eggnog could be anywhere from 300-500 calories! As a general rule, the sweeter the drink, the higher the calorie count. Sip on a vodka soda, light beer, or a glass of dry red or white wine (all of which are around 90-130 calories per serving) and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.

7. Location, location, location
Before committing to a place to stand or sit at a party, consider that the closer we are to food (in our line of sight or within reach), the more likely we are to overeat and drink.  There is a very simple fix – walk away! Sitting or standing far away from the buffet, dessert table or bar makes getting more food or another beverage far less convenient, ultimately making you less likely to overindulge.

A couple other tips for staying on track this holiday season and all year round include:
1. Never shop when you’re hungry
We are much more likely to make bad choices when we’re hungry.

2. Keep moving
Exercise not only helps when it comes to achieving our weightless goals, it is also a great stress reliever. Instead of trying to eat and drink away the stress of the holidays and life in general, hit the gym. You’ll feel better physically and mentally every time. Building muscle increases your metabolism! Think burning more calories while you sleep. Yes, please!

3. Be kind to yourself and stay positive
Last but not least, the holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration, joy, and spending time with loved ones. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad diet day or if you can’t make it to the gym. Remind yourself that you’ll do better tomorrow and encourage yourself when you’ve eaten a healthy meal or done something good for yourself.

Have a happy, healthy holiday season!