The holidays are the season for getting together with friends and family, enjoying mulled wine and munching on mince pies. But it’s also a time when all that tempting food and drink seems to be everywhere. You will be tempted, from office drinks, family sized candy and cookie boxes, glasses of champagne through to multiple mini chocolates scattered around the house.

It seems a lot harder to avoid festive indulging at this time of year, but don’t worry, everyone has their favorite seasonal treat, and so long as you enjoy them in moderation, there’s no harm done.  To help you enjoy the holiday festivities without regretting your food choices by the arrival of January, below is a list of our top tips for avoiding excess when it comes to eating and drinking for the holidays.

1.  Be Mindful
 If you can remember one word when going to social gatherings, it’s mindful. Let your hair down and indulge in the joys at parties, but keep mindful of how you will feel after overindulging or the next day.  Don’t forget the consequences of bloating and headache and fogginess may be enough to keep you in check around temptation. 

One trick that I personally use to only eat treats that have been hand baked, as I want to fully appreciate the time and effort that went in to the creation of these goodies.  If you keep to this plan, then it becomes effortless to pass by the store bought goods, because the homemade ones taste so much better.

2.  Never Arrive Hungry  
 While it may be tempting to avoid eating throughout the day so you can justify eating more at a holiday party later, this may not be the best strategy.  You’ll arrive starved and suffering from an inability to moderate your intake, which may lead to an unfortunate stuff-fest of party snacks and cheap nibbles.

If you start a party with something in your belly, you’ll eat less and have regulated blood sugar levels, and be able to make reasonable decisions.   This may also mitigate feeling light-headed when drinking alcohol on an empty stomach to keep level minded.

3.  Be Selective
 Rather than eating all the sugary food that comes your way, save yourself instead for a slice of your favorite cake or that mouth-watering homemade dessert your Aunt Martha is bringing along.  Make a plan with yourself for the foods and desserts that you want to enjoy instead of mindlessly snacking food that has been laid out on a table, which is easy to grab by the handful while chatting with friends.

This also helps with portion control and this is the perfect time to employ quality over quantity.  There’s nothing wrong with sampling your favorite festive treats, but try to stick to smaller portions to enjoy the taste but without adding extra sugar and carbs to your evening.  One way to achieve this is to use a smaller plate which can trick the mind into thinking that you are eating a larger portion.

4. Balance Alcohol with Water
 While it’s lovely to share a few merry drinks with family and friends, the festive season should not be seen as an excuse to forget your personal limits with alcohol.  Remember that alcohol is really high in calories, and a few too many drinks can cause weight gain.  Also, there’s the unfortunate side effect that the more you drink, the less inhibited you may feel about helping yourself to that second or third plateful of food from the buffet – not the best move when trying to be mindful about your health.

One trick that may help with limiting alcoholic drinks is that for every cocktail that you consume, drink a glass of water in between.  This will help with your hydration levels and spread out your enjoyment levels of drinking, especially if you’re attending an open house or an event that lasts hours.  Drinking water can potentially help with being mindful about food intake as well, as our brain often misinterprets the feeling of thirst for hunger. 

5. Buy Only What is Necessary
 Cupboards stocked with excessive amounts of holiday food, fudge and chips are a recipe for disaster. You’ll only find it that much harder to resist the temptation and end up eating them so they “don’t go to waste”.  Purchase only what you need by filling your cupboards with healthy ingredients and avoid buying large boxes of candy and cookies.

6. Let Go of the Guilt
 Holiday food and drinks are a wonderful part of the holidays and the worst thing is to feel guilty at this time, especially the morning after a party.  You can appreciate the efforts of our friends and family to prepare delicious and festive food.  For many people, however, guilt tends to increase especially with the surge of overeating and neglecting diets.

It’s not an all or nothing affair for the holidays when it comes to your diet. Many people feel tempted to throw caution to the wind, eat everything they want and tell themselves they’ll worry about the results when it comes time to the New Year. In reality, you’re likely to feel much better about yourself if you practice the above tips for avoiding excess when it comes to eating and drinking for the holidays.

Another trick is to make room in your calendar to take extra walks, book in additional trips to the gym or take more bike rides to keep positive, feel healthy and energized as you navigate your social engagements.