Between the piles of candy on Halloween and the potlucks afterwards to celebrate New Year’s and everything in between, sticking to your health and wellness goals can be a challenge.

If you’re like me, you give it your best effort to resist the temptation to eat all your favorites and end up throwing in the towel because you only live once, right?

I’ve learned that enjoying the holidays doesn’t mean I have to stick to a strict diet and avoid the comfort foods that seem to taste the best this time of year. How do I do that? I start by being more intentional about planning ahead so that I stick to the 80/20 rule.

Here are a few things I have put into practice over the years that have helped me enjoy the holiday season without packing on pounds.

  1. Plan Ahead

How many times have you promised yourself you would “be good” and not eat that slice of pie after dinner, knowing that once it’s in front of you, it will be hard for you to avoid it? Yes, I have been there too. Let’s commit to planning ahead this year.

If I know I am going to a holiday party or dinner and will want to enjoy the food there, I’ll make sure I eat clean, drink lots of water and get in at least 20 min of exercise earlier that day. This helps me to maintain my routine of health and wellness without forfeiting the fun of tasting holiday treats. Knowing yourself allows you to be more realistic about how to reach and maintain your goals.

  1. Attend Holiday Events on a Full Stomach

While skipping lunch because you know you’re going to have a big dinner might sound like a good idea, it isn’t. The calories you think you’re saving for the evening often don’t matter because you end up overindulging. The hungrier you feel, the more food you’re likely to put on your plate. If there are hors d’oeuvres, you’ll likely get full off cheese and crackers before ever getting to the main course that has the substance your body needs to feel full.

  1. Monitor Your Alcohol Intake

It’s important to stay hydrated, so make sure you are drinking plenty of water. We’re less prone to carry and drink lots of water during the winter because of the cold temperatures, but the more hydrated you are, the better you will feel. 

As easy as it is to want to try all the foods in front of you, it’s equally easy to want to sample different alcoholic beverages: eggnog, punch, wine. Drinking water will slow you down between drinks. Remember, alcohol can fool you into thinking you still have room in your stomach for a few more slices of pie.

  1. Don’t Stress It

Now, this is easier said than done but stressing about what you are or are not eating is not going to help. Food is the cornerstone of every celebration and is often a bonding experience for families to connect and share memories. If you plan and practice the tips I shared, you’re already on the road to success!